What we ex­pect from the Dun­phy in­quiry

The Labradorian - - EDITORIAL - Bob Wake­ham

* EDI­TOR’S NOTE: This col­umn has ex­plicit lan­guage

Ul­ti­mately, though, Barry, and of­fi­cial­dom, will have no choice but to ac­cept Smyth’s ver­sion of the shoot­ing, as frus­trat­ing as that might be for the Dun­phy fam­ily most es­pe­cially.

Un­less he’s the owner of a Rod Ser­ling-like time ma­chine, Leo Barry has no way of de­ter­min­ing ex­actly what took place in Don Dun­phy’s Mitchell’s Brook liv­ing room on Easter Sun­day of 2015.

And any­one who be­lieves oth­er­wise, any­one who ex­pects Barry, the head of the in­quiry into the shoot­ing of Dun­phy by Const. Joe Smyth, to de­liver a de­fin­i­tive take on the tragedy is read­ing from the book of naivety.

For, as Barry knows, as we all know, there is only one liv­ing wit­ness to the blood­let­ting that oc­curred — the shooter, Smyth, and he was coached by cops from the out­set to be care­ful in his telling of his side of the story (a con­flict of in­ter­est on the part of his col­leagues, a se­vere com­pro­mise in ob­jec­tiv­ity), and by lawyers to be stead­fast in re­lat­ing to the in­quiry what he re­mem­bers from that ul­ti­mately hor­rific quar­ter of an hour he spent with Dun­phy on that day two years ago.

Smyth has con­sis­tently said he was act­ing in self-de­fense, that he fired four shots at Dun­phy af­ter a ri­fle was pointed in his di­rec­tion.

Yes, ques­tions have been raised about the stick that Dun­phy al­ways had for pro­tec­tion — whether it was, in fact, the stick that Smyth mis­took for a gun. And there have even been al­le­ga­tions dur­ing the hear­ing that Smyth al­tered the shoot­ing scene to cover up his mis­take.

Par­tic­i­pants in the in­quiry can also won­der aloud, as can other ob­servers, and colum­nists, for that mat­ter (and they have), about the de­tails of the con­fronta­tion; why, for in­stance, Smyth didn’t leave the house the sec­ond Dun­phy be­came ag­i­tated.

Ul­ti­mately, though, Barry, and of­fi­cial­dom, will have no choice but to ac­cept Smyth’s ver­sion of the shoot­ing, as frus­trat­ing as that might be for the Dun­phy fam­ily most es­pe­cially.

But there are still cru­cial ar­eas where Barry will not re­quire a time ma­chine to pass judg­ment and of­fer rec­om­men­da­tions as part of his man­date, and he has al­ready hinted at some of those mat­ters, whether, for ex­am­ple, the po­lice were overly pro­tec­tive of one of their own, whether Smyth was treated with kid gloves, whether he was ac­corded the type of treat­ment a pri­vate cit­i­zen caught up such an in­ci­dent would not have been given, whether there was in­for­ma­tion and ad­vice that was ex­traor­di­nary, and in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

As Barry him­self noted the other day: “In­ves­ti­ga­tion of the boys, by the boys, that doesn’t work.”

But the most crit­i­cal el­e­ment Barry is ca­pa­ble of ad­dress­ing, one that will have the most long­stand­ing im­pli­ca­tions — this is ad­mit­tedly not a mat­ter of pro­found en­light­en­ment, but should, nev­er­the­less, be em­pha­sized again and again — is what ev­ery level-think­ing New­found­lan­der has been ask­ing from day one: why was Smyth ever at the Dun­phy home in the first place?

I’ll bet if Dun­phy could speak from the grave, he would hope that his now well-pub­li­cized, ag­o­niz­ing frus­tra­tion with bu­reau­cracy will have an im­pact on the way oth­ers in his sit­u­a­tion are dealt with in the fu­ture, es­pe­cially those who are forced on worker’s com­pen­sa­tion. But se­condly, and more im­por­tant, Dun­phy, I’m sure, would beg Barry to en­sure that no cit­i­zen of New­found­land will ever again have to face an armed cop be­cause he dared to heap scorn on politi­cians, those peo­ple elected and paid to rep­re­sent his in­ter­ests.

That any­body can re­fer to a politi­cian as a “prick,” as Dun­phy did, or use what­ever lan­guage they wish (as long as there’s no threat of phys­i­cal harm), and not have to ex­plain them­selves to a cop.

I was watch­ing that fine Steven Spiel­berg film, “Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan,” the other night, and the sol­diers used a term to de­scribe a mis­sion — an ex­pres­sion that could fit the bill for how Dun­phy’s tweets were han­dled: FUBAR, as in “F--ked Up Beyond All Recog­ni­tion.”

And it was FUBAR right from the start in the case of Don Dun­phy: a “com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist” a mi­nor flack in the premier’s of­fice, had what she con­sid­ered to be the au­ton­omy, the au­thor­ity, the knowl­edge, to de­ter­mine that the words in a saucy tweet from Dun­phy were wor­thy of po­lice in­ter­ven­tion, of con­sul­ta­tion with Smyth, a mem­ber of the premier’s se­cu­rity unit, and he then takes it upon him­self (ap­par­ently) to travel to Dun­phy’s home, unan­nounced, on an Easter Sun­day, a pis­tol at the ready.

Even if we have no choice but to ac­cept Smyth’s story that he had to shoot Dun­phy to pro­tect him­self, the fact re­mains that he should have been nowhere near the Dun­phy home that day, or any day, as far as that goes.

There had to have been so many bet­ter ways, safer ways, more pro­duc­tive ways, to deal with Don Dun­phy than to have an armed cop knock­ing on his door that day, in a mis­guided at­tempt to build, as Smyth so iron­i­cally de­scribed it, a “rap­port.”

And that’s what Dun­phy would say to Leo Barry: make sure, Jus­tice Barry, that what hap­pened to me will not hap­pen to any of the Don Dun­phys of the fu­ture, that no one will ever die be­cause they dared to tell a politi­cian to go to hell.

That’s what he would want, that’s the very least he would ex­pect.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.