Culture of fear

Does a ‘good faith’ warning policy have service workers acting as vigilantes?

West Broadway resident David Leckie discovered that even a toy gun is enough to get MTS workers worried about public safety. Mark Reimer

A Winnipeg resident was recently reminded of the sensitivity to public safety when police raided his home in search of weapons – on account of a toy gun.

David Leckie was getting an Internet connection installed by Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS) on Feb. 19.

An hour after the technician left, members of the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) came to his door armed with rifles and wearing intimidating black outfits.

Leckie had no idea what was going on.

The police handcuffed him and searched his West Broadway apartment. They said they had a report of weapons on the premises.

The search turned up the culprit, a toy gun that Leckie had used as a prop in a movie.

The entire incident took about 15 minutes, Leckie said.

Leckie still didn’t understand the reason behind the incident, but he had an idea; so he went to the MTS head office to try and figure it out.

MTS security services informed Leckie the technician who visited his home had called the police in response to seeing the gun in the apartment.

This response is routine for MTS, which has a policy on reporting suspicious incidents based on the judgment of its service workers, Jill Gibson from MTS communications wrote in an e-mail.

“MTS Allstream is regretful for any inconvenience caused by this incident. MTS Allstream’s obligation to the public and the safety of its contractors and their employees is to report incidents like this to the proper authority to investigate and act appropriately.”

This policy is no problem for the police. WPS Constable Jason Michalyshen said the police do get false incidents occasionally, but it’s a case of better safe than sorry.

Michalyshen wrote that Leckie has to understand the police were acting on good faith.

For Leckie, this is no matter to be taken lightly. He is upset not only because the gun was a toy, but because he denies holding or using it in any way while the technician was in his home.

Leckie said the gun was behind a bar counter where the technician was working, far from where he was standing.

“There’s only room for one person behind the bar,” he said.

Leckie admits the gun was painted entirely black, which could make it seem real, but that “if you looked at it up close, it would not look realistic at all.”

“Decisions have to be made when we’re aware of a situation where a gun is involved,” Michalyshen said. “We have to take that info as being factual.”

No charges were laid against Leckie.

Leckie is not concerned about the police response, but is instead upset by MTS’s apparent unwillingness to take responsibility.

“I’m expecting nothing from them at this point,” Leckie said. “But I would like to hear them say sorry.”

Leckie has cancelled his service with MTS. They have since sent him a bill for the installation, which he does not plan on paying.

“What if this happened to someone with children or [who] were elderly?” asked Leckie. “They (MTS) would probably be more serious about it.”

Published in Volume 63, Number 25 of The Uniter (March 26, 2009)

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