A bit of background information is needed before you read this article. This story involves the investigation that took place after the arrest of Al Buttnor in Edmonton in 1991. It should be noted that, allegedly, before these interegations began, the police officers involved had been visited by two Scientologists, who presented the officers with a dead agent pack on Janice Gariepy and her children. Also, it is alleged that when Al found out he was about to be arrested he sent two Scientologists to literally pluck these two kids off the street, force them into the back of a van, and drive them around for a couple hours trying to get them to not talk. This happened (allegedly) shortly before these interrogations took place. As well, the Edmonton City Police were contacted by a Scientology lawyer in Toronto and told that if the charges were not dropped they would come at them with everything they had.
The Church as said repeatedly that Buttnor was absolutely found to be not guilty of these charges. However, check out these quotes from the Law Enforcement Appeal Board ruling that ensued:
"It is extremely probable that the children's allegations do represent real trauma in their lives. This investigation did not in any way rule out the possibility of sexual abuse."
"In Dr. Rediger's opinion, it was impossible to come away from the interview with any reasonable assurance whether the children's allegations were false or true. Retractions made by the children could not be considered sound as the police process obliterated a reasonable basis."
You can read the entire Law Enforcement Appeal Board ruling at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/1332/mccoy.htm, thanks to Martin Hunt.
Ok, here's the Edmonton Journal article:
---------------------------------------------------- Edmonton Journal, August 10, 1995 Will you take my mom away?
The girl was 9, the boy was 10. Put yourself in their small shoes for a moment and consider their terrible fear on March 14, 1991.
Three Edmonton police officers interrogated the children and their mother, Janice Gariepey, for approximately three hours.
The brother and sister can be seen crying uncontrollably in a videotape of the interrogation. Here are a few selected excerpts.
Detective Fabio Bonetto: "Would you like to go in a youth home? Would you like to be separated from your family? Well that's what's going to happen. We're going to phone Social Services and ah, get you guys out of that house. Cause you're not being looked after. They're going to split you guys up."
"You're going to go to court and they're going to put you away. They're going to put you in a foster home... I should phone Social Services right now and you guys are not going to go home at all."
Detective John Findlay: "You guys want to go to jail? You want to go to jail? You want your mom to go to jail?"
"You're ready to go to a young offender home if we find out that you're lying in regards to this .. Just want you to understand that. If we find out you're lying that's where you're going to go. And you won't be with your mom any more."
The girl interrupted this barrage of threats to ask former Inspector Jim Cessford: "Will you take my mom away from us?".
No child in Edmonton should feel compelled to ask this question of a city police officer. When it happens, something is seriously wrong in the police department.
The Edmonton Police Service is in a state of denial. First, it dismissed a complaint against the three officers after an internal investigation; the chief of police didn't even bother to explain the reason.
In it's own review, the Law Enforcement Appeal Board described the interrogation as "threatening, abusive and excessive." It found the three officers guilty of professional misconduct.
Yet in a letter to the Journal published today, Deputy Chief A.T. Buerger, continues to defend the indefensible.
"For reasons known only to the children and their mother, they were obviously making false allegations of serious criminal misconduct against innocent people," says Buerger.
"This distressing behavior was evident in the past and it was feared would likely be exhibited in the future as well. There was a need to come to the bottom of the allegations and show them as manifestly untrue. In doing this, the members honestly believed that they were protecting innocent people from being subjected to groundless prosecution."
What about their duty to protect young children from groundless persecution?
Fair-minded adults understand when police give stern warnings to children about the consequences of their actions. Many a kid has straightened out after receiving a cop's vivid description of a hellfire and brimstone prison life.
There is a world of difference, however, between that kind of no-nonsense lecture and the Gariepy children's interrogation and detention at police headquarters in 1991.
Police in Canada have no authority to arrest and detain children in relation to criminal offences if they are under the age of 12. That doesn't mean they are helpless if juvenile crime occurs. It only means that they are obliged to turn the youngster over to child welfare authorities as soon as possible for appropriate action.
They failed to do this in the Gariepy case, a serious omission. It was the mother who made the original accusation of sexual assault against another member of the Church of Scientology. Even if the allegations were groundless and repetitive, in fact, police should have alerted child welfare authorities immediately about the involvement of children in a serious feud between adults.
Police do have the right to question children when they make an accusation of criminal behavior but they must have a court order or the parent's permission, which can be withdrawn at any time.
Janice Gariepy was not allowed that option once her children were locked in an interrogation room. The investigators did not ask a social worker to participate in the questioning, nor did they give the children any hint that they might be neutral or objective investigators.
Police officers know perfectly well that they lack the jurisdiction to detain a child in a jail or foster home or to take children away from their mother. Any threat of this nature is a serious abuse of authority. Children have legal rights in Canada. The law does not allow police investigators to treat youngsters in an abusive or harmful mannor.
The Law Enforcement Appeal Board ruled that the police detained the children against the will of their mother, a clear contravention of the law. It described the police department's conduct during the first appeal as "resistant and unwilling".
While the Edmonton Police Service has introduced some recent improvements in child sexual abuse investigations, it's spirited defense of the misconduct of these three police officers is offensive.