Keith Lacey has had a remarkable welcome to his new job as editor of the newspaper in the Okanagan Valley community of Osoyoos.
Two months into his new job as editor of the Osoyoos Times, the veteran 50-year-old journalist found himself in a tough fight with the RCMP superintendent in charge of media relations in B.C. after publishing an online editorial over his experiences earlier this month during a traffic stop.
Mr. Lacey subsequently pulled the editorial – headlined “Self-righteous cops who treat innocent taxpayers like criminals is unacceptable” – due to public reaction in the community.
“I had a litany of anonymous, just nasty comments that were libellous and slanderous towards me, the paper and the officer and I just shut her down,” Mr. Lacey said of the editorial, published this week. “Things were getting out of control.”
But they appeared back in control Friday afternoon after RCMP Superintendent Ray Bernoties said he would drive 400 kilometres from Vancouver to Osoyoos to screen a video of the encounter for the public.
Supt. Bernoties said the footage showed the officer doing his job properly, but would not release it without Mr. Lacey’s permission.
Mr. Lacey, Supt. Bernoties said, declined to provide that permission during a telephone conversation between the two men on Friday afternoon.
“The call was quite cordial and respectful,” he said. “I certainly am not contemplating further action. The ball is in his court.”
Still, Supt. Bernoties said he thought the officer was owed an apology.
Earlier Friday, Mr. Lacey said he had no problem releasing the video, but eventually said he would not be commenting further on the matter.
Supt. Bernoties said he had only wanted to set the record straight and defend the officer, and that he felt both goals had been achieved.
“Quite frankly, the video is quite uneventful. It shows a very calm, respectful and professional RCMP member doing a typical stop. There’s not a great deal of conflict or anything like that in the video from either side,” he said.
In the pulled editorial, Mr. Lacey writes that he went for dinner with his girlfriend and some other friends on Feb. 3, consuming a pint of beer over about two hours.
Upon leaving, however, he and his girlfriend went to an adjacent liquor store to buy a bottle of wine to drink at home, but he was pulled over by the police officer as he left.
Mr. Lacey writes that the officer told him he was being stopped because his licence plate was dirty, and “made it very clear he was going to make me undergo the humiliation of having to undergo a roadside breath test.
“He had no reasonable or probable grounds to be doing any of this, but yet he persisted to show just how much power he had.”
Mr. Lacey said he has never had a problem with police during his 27-year career as a journalist.
“I’m 50 years old, was polite and co-operative, showed no signs at all of any impairment, yet this experienced officer couldn’t help himself and had to humiliate and embarrass me just because he can,” he wrote. “It’s disgusting.”
Mr. Lacey was not charged in the incident.
In his own letter to the newspaper, Supt. Bernoties says the officer in question carries a photo in his duty bag of a young girl killed by an impaired driver.
“This police officer, who you so freely defame using your position, also has extensive training and experience with impaired driving investigations. He has, no doubt, saved many lives by taking drunk drivers off the road using the exact same lawful means as the night he stopped you.”