The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Will NDP's social-worker approach to crime result in probabation officer being charged for Lanzellotti death?

Oh, the irony.

Here's the NDP releasing a string of pre-election, tough-on-crime announcements and they get smacked in the kisser with a scandal that exposes their biggest crime-fighting "success" as a complete farce.

It would be funny if it wasn't for the string of tragic deaths that leads back directly to the office of the Justice Minister.

It turns out that Manitoba's probation services believes it's not bound by the sentences laid down by judges. Where a judge imposed strict probation conditions on a repeat juvenile car thief, the lad's probation officer waived them away and replaced them with her own, superior, "judgement", resulting in the death of a city cab driver rammed by the same joyriding car thief who was breaking his court-ordered probation.

The electorate has learned through evidence presented at a sentencing hearing that the epidemic of car theft infecting Winnipeg was fed for years by this very lax supervision of juvenile offenders, a policy endorsed by NDP Justice Minister Andrew Swan.

The Manitoba NDP is now frantically thrashing about, trying to get off the hook of the scandal that's engulfing them. But the usual deflection tactics perfected by our scandal-stained unelected Premier Greg Selinger have fallen flat because the public is seething at having been played for fools.

The NDP has resorted to its standard playbook---throw something at the wall and hope it sticks.

There's the old "ho hum, we already changed the policy to make it tougher" routine.

And the tried-and-true "it's your fault because you voted against hiring more probation officers" act.

And, of course, the always popular "we've called a meeting with the head of the RCMP, the Chief of Winnipeg Police, Nelson Mandella, the Dalai Lama, Olympic medalist Clara Hughes and Oprah to find a solution."

What the public remembers, though, is Andrew Swan's glib response to the news that taxi driver Tony Lanzellotti was killed on March 29, 2008 by a 14-year-old in a stolen car who had breached his probation at least 24 times in the prior six weeks.

"Frankly, if a kid is five minutes late for an appointment with a probation officer, or a kid because of his home life is late for school one day, I don't think Manitobans want that to be a reason for more criminal charges to be laid," sniffed Andrew Swan.

Flippant in the face of fact, Swan defended the NDP's social-worker approach to crime, even if it means the deaths of innocent people like Tony Lanzellotti, Zdzislaw Andrzejczak, Rachelle Leost, and too many others. MPI says on its website that on average, three people are killed and 76 people are injured every year in theft-related crashes.

Big joke, eh, Andrew.

The bigger joke is the university eggheads who have been promoting the NDP as valiant crime-fighters. Their reputations are in the toilet thanks to the Lanzellotti revelation.

"The NDP has done as well as it can as a governing party to address crime," puffed Jared Wesley, an assistant professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba, during the Concordia byelection.

"Wesley pointed to the success of the Winnipeg Auto Theft Suppression Strategy to reduce car theft..." wrote the Winnipeg Free Press two months ago.

And two months before that, the newspaper trumpeted
"Rick Linden, a University of Manitoba criminology professor and co-chairman of the Manitoba Auto Theft Task Force, which designed WATSS, (who) said the program has been a huge success. Linden said the program does "as good a job as is humanly possible" on crime prevention, but it's impossible to stop every car thief."

So the eggheads believe the NDP has "done as well as it address crime" and its car-theft strategy does "as good a job as humanly possible."

We beg to differ.

The NDP could have done twice as much to address crime if it had simply enforced the judges' sentences and called the police the first time the car thieves breached their conditions instead of minimizing their behavior and allowing the criminals to call the shots.

And it appears that the claims of the vaunted auto theft suppression strategy need a serious re-examination.

The university eggheads continue to propagate the idea that baby-sitting car thieves reduced car theft, but it may be that over five years, the thieves simply aged themselves out of the Youth Justice Act and, once faced with serious jail time as adults, decided to stop stealing cars.

The government is trying to hide behind the federal Youth Justice Act. We're helpless, they plead. Our hands are tied. And to this extent, they're right: under the Act, probation officers, contrary to what you may believe, are not the buffers between young criminals and the public; they are officially buffers between the criminals and the police.

Yes, that's right, their job is to support the criminals in the system.

The rampant disregard for public safety by the Manitoba probation service, with the full backing of the NDP government, cannot be allowed to pass.

For starters, the province's chief medical examiner must call an inquest into the death of Tony Lanzellotti, just as he called an inquest into the preventable death of Brian Sinclair at the Health Sciences Centre. In the Sinclair case, the cause of death is known and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has taken massive remedial steps to prevent a similar incident, and yet there is a need to examine the wider problems in the health care system. So, too, with the justice system.

But why stop there? One year ago, the NDP announced they were charging two Winnipeg policemen with attempted murder for their actions in trying to stop and arrest a drugged-up chronic car thief.

Now we have an example of what happens when authorities fail to stop a chronic car thief. Who will be held responsible for that?

The Lanzellotti family should launch a private prosecution against the probation officer who was in charge of the 14 year old killer for criminal negligence.

Definitions of criminal negligence on the Web:

(law) recklessly acting without reasonable caution and putting another person at risk of injury or death (or failing to do something with the same ...

In the criminal law, criminal negligence is one of the three general classes of mens rea (Latin for "guilty mind") element required to constitute a conventional as opposed to strict liability offense. ...

Failure to use reasonable care, and thus put someone at risk of injury or death

She certainly knew that teen was a level 4 offender. That term is defined in Manitoba as someone who has been convicted and sentenced multiple times for car theft. Convicted. Multiple times.

MPI has reported that Level 4 offenders steal up to 40 cars a year each. So having him on the street without supervision was pretty much a guarantee that he would steal a car.

The 14-year-old was out of control. His own father called authorities to say his son was breaching the conditions of his probation. That call was on Feb. 25, 2008. He broke his probation conditions another 18 times before killing Lanzellotti.

18 times!

The probation officer said she wouldn't call police until there was a pattern of breaches.

The law on criminal negligence uses a "reasonable person" standard to judge the actions of the accused. Would a reasonable person interpret 24 breaches of the law within six weeks a pattern?

The probation officer turned a blind eye to the breaches, refusing to report them to police. That's the actus reus (Latin for "guilty act"). By doing so she would have known he was stealing cars or, at best, would eventually steal a car.

And by letting him get away with it, she demonstrated negligence through what Wikipedia explains is "the failure to foresee and so allow otherwise avoidable dangers to manifest."

She let him break probation.
She knew he would steal a car.
She knew he had no fear of the law by his vast previous criminal record.

It was only a matter of time before he killed someone.

"Who knew" is a poor defence when the obvious answer is "Everyone."

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