Danielle Smith: Police raid on rural Calgary property looks like overkill
When we heard the story of the massive operation at a Calgary acreage that brought out at least 40 officials – including Calgary Police Service tactical units, Tsuu T’ina police, Calgary fire, public health, Alberta Environment and Parks, Environment Canada, and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry – to respond to an animal abuse call, I’m sure everyone’s first thought was, “Those must be some really bad dudes.”
Why else would they expend such an enormous amount of resources upon a single raid?
I understand why law enforcement sometimes overreacts in the case of a perceived threat.
In fact, on Friday the RCMP was fined $550,000 by the New Brunswick Labour Board for failing to protect its officers after a gunman targeted cops in a Moncton neighbourhood purposely in 2014.
You may also remember the Mayerthorpe massacre when a known criminal involved in pot and stolen cars ambushed and killed four RCMP officers.
Closer to home, former Foothills peace officer Rod Lazenby was beaten to death on a nuisance call when a delusional homeowner thought he was trying to steal his dogs.
Officers go into dangerous and deadly situations all the time. They need to be prepared for the worst. Sometimes they make the decision to deploy a massive tactical response to assist in the effort and it is the right decision. And then sometimes it is the wrong decision.
LISTEN: Fritz Brokop feels the massive property search of his ranch was unnecessary
In the case of the raid on the property of Fred “Fritz” Brokop, it appears to me that someone made a mistake.
In the media briefing after the raid, Staff Sgt. Guy Baker said that in his 31 years as an officer he had never seen “such a disgusting and dirty environment to live as humans and also to raise animals.”
He also said it was his call to send in the massive force because when he heard there was a possibility there may be weapons, “I chose to err on the side of safety and make sure that everyone was going to come home alive.”
Once again, they must be really, really bad dudes if the police thought it was going to turn into a shootout.
Then we were told that 40 animals had been seized, but that no animal abuse charges had been laid. The charges that were laid were one count of failing to listen to a judge and 15 counts of unsafe storage of firearms.
That has all the hallmarks of authorities doctoring up enough charges to try to justify their actions.
Fortunately, the property owner has no intention of allowing his reputation to be tarnished and is speaking up. He invited media to tour his property and I spoke to him today to get his side of the story.
WATCH BELOW: Fred Brokop explains the animals seized by Calgary Humane Society
Tracing the incident to where it started, it sounds like he got in the crosshairs of the Tsuu T’ina police when one of his tenants was believed to be responsible for a stolen car. It turned out not to be the case.
But three days after the Tsuu T’ina police entered his property to arrest the tenant, the raid took place.
If I were to guess, it appears as though they were looking for a reason to raid the property to make sure there wasn’t any illegal activity going on there. They discovered that Brokop was forbidden from owning animals for 10 years due to an incident he pleaded guilty to the previous year.
There were animals on the property, therefore he was in violation of the court order. There’s your reason.
But Brokop has what appears to be a reasonable explanation for everything. The 2017 court judgment against him was related to a horse and some ducks that were found in distress.
He said he had sought medical attention for the horse because it had psoriasis on its eye and was told it couldn’t be treated. He didn’t want to put the horse down, because it was a good horse, so he continued to allow it to live on the property. He figures someone saw the horse and reported him.
As for the ducks, he said he buys unsold product from a local butcher, cares for them and then resells them. He said the ducks were scrawny because he had just received a shipment. He pleaded guilty to the charges to avoid the potential of a $500,000 fine.
WATCH BELOW: ‘It’s a ranch’: Fred Brokop responds to police assessment of property
In his conversation with me, Brokop said he understands and accepts the court order that he can’t own and care for animals. But he said all the animals on the farm are owned and cared for by his tenants. Seized in the raid were dogs, cats, a lizard and 11 quails; which Brokop said were not in poor health and should not have been taken.
There were other animals on the farm that weren’t seized.
That’s the other thing. The police initially reported 15 people living on the property, making it sound like it was some kind of shantytown or cult compound. But there were eight people living in three houses.
When I asked Brokop why so many people lived there, he asked, “What would you do if you had three homes on your property?” Well, you’d probably rent them out – wouldn’t you?
As for the firearms, one thing that binds all the farm residents together is their love of hunting. So yes, if you go visit a farm full of hunters, there are going to be firearms.
Brokop said the guns in question were not “strewn all over the property” as the police implied, but were in his home where, he said, he has a right to display them.
Brokop describes a shocking use of force with officers storming the homes with guns raised, breaking down doors, even hauling one tenant out of the washroom as he was relieving himself. The tenants were handcuffed, taken off the property and dropped off at an LRT station and told, essentially, to fend for themselves until they were allowed back.
Perhaps if they had uncovered a stolen car ring or a fentanyl lab, there may have been a way to justify the police action. But so far it looks like an excessive use of force that has no justification. The public needs to follow this case as it makes its way through court to see how it ends up.
Has no one learned anything from what happened to Anthony Heffernan? It appears not.
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