Guest Post By Cabot Martin

A Plea to Premier Davis: call
a Public Inquiry into the Dunphy shooting – NOW
On Friday past, the RNC
officer (so far unnamed) who shot Donny Dunphy sent out a letter that sped
through the provincial consciousness like a bitter March wind.
As a result, in the midst of
tragedy, we are confronted with the unwelcome need to push on down a road of
inquiry that seems to open into a place we have not been before.
It is a place far from those
days, not very long ago, when it was our happy boast that our very own RNC was
the only unarmed police force in North America.
We evidently have not paid
enough attention to policing matters and to what the RNC has been up to with
this PSU business.
For instance, how did this
letter, this extraordinary intervention by Officer “X” , an officer subject to
an ongoing police investigation, get written in the first place?

And evidently sent to all RNC
officers through some sort of internal RNC communications system.
When was the last time you
read such an extraordinary missive?
Has the man no lawyer who
would surely have advised against sending such a letter in the middle of an
investigation ?
Surely the first thing the
Premier/RNC would have done is to ensure that the officer had access to an
experienced personal legal counsel.
And exactly what is the
essence of this document ?
Is it simply a spontaneous
ill-advised cry from the heart ?
Or is it a calculated
statement by a person awaiting the results of the RCMP investigation into a
death by shooting and possibly, hopefully, a Judicial Inquiry which would
predictably cast a broader net ?
All the while attacking those
who would debate the issue ?
It is absolutely unacceptable
that we have been placed in a position where we even have to think about and
discuss things like that.
But the letter exists and
cannot be ignored; and by transmission to over 500 officers and staff in the
RNC, Officer X cannot plead that he had any reasonable expectation of privacy –
the leak to the CBC was entirely predictable.
Officer X starts off with a statement
of apparent exasperation regarding a “vocal minority” using the “social media”
which speaks for itself:
“The vocal minority engaged in
social media and open line talk shows appear to want an immediate cyber-trial
in a veritable town square, instead of a professional and detailed
investigation involving interviews and scientific forensic analysis.”
This statement is nothing more
than a mass ad hominem attack on an extremely diverse group of persons
collectively called the “vocal minority”; and it seems far off the mark.
As far as I can tell, most
people, and by no means a mere “vocal minority”, seem to have serious questions
and concerns about the Dunphy affair and merely want an independent Judicial
Inquiry along the lines as has been used in the last three police shootings
resulting in death in the Province.
And the police officer
involved (and presumably the Premier and RNC Chief) should welcome such an
Indeed, the very act of
sending the letter contradicts its own request for proper investigational
procedure, inserting itself, as it does, into a RCMP investigation into his
conduct and omitting a better advised call for a Judicial Inquiry – not that
any personal letter was advisable and proper at this stage.
Nevertheless, as difficult as
it is, we have to move past the predicament of the officer concerned and dig
deep into the apparatus for which he/she worked — the Protective Services
Unit (PSU).
The letter’s contents,
ill-advised and personal as it is, cannot be allowed to chill the debate about
the Dunphy affair and about the laws and procedures we need to properly govern
the activities of the police.
Of course, as others have
said, a clear and early commitment to a full and independent Judicial Inquiry
by Premier Davis would have saved everyone a great deal of debate and anguish.
So, when you think about it,
it is Premier Davis who is really responsible for all this investigational
mess, including, indirectly, the bizarre and improper injection of retired
Judge Riche into the RCMP investigation.
The police officer/letter
writer is a member of Premier Davis’ personal presumably elite Protective
Services Unit (PSU) – a sort of bodyguard with a very broad and proactive
investigative program. Its size and methods of operation are a secret.
So the first questions to be
answered are:
What exactly has the PSU been
mandated to do?
How does it operate?
How big is it?
What internal checks have been
instituted to protect the rights of citizens?
Second , did something go
wrong with this particular PSU “operation” before Officer X even knocked on
Donny Dunphy’s door ?
– a screw-up that has some
very powerful people worried?
And do the views about the
role of the PSU expressed by the Officer X in his letter accurately reflect the
views generally held within the senior ranks of the RNC and in the Premier’s
If so, a debate in the House
of Assembly on the PSU seems long overdue.
The most chilling part of the
officer’s letter deals with the activities of the Protective Services Unit
(PSU) – a unit that we are told is designed to be “pro-active” and on the
lookout for “disconcerting behavior”.
Add to that, RCMP interviews
since the Donny Dunphy shooting referring to the “vast’ amount of information
available to the police which they apparently shared with the PSU.
As in electronic surveillance
of personal phone calls and email accounts ? On a “pro-active “ basis?
Bring on the Public Inquiry
and oversight please.
Indeed, at the very least, the
following quotation from Officer X’s letter confirms that either the Premier
Office’s and/or RNC HQ in Fort Townsend have been quite busy of late building
an elaborate Protective Services Unit with a nebulous mandate apparently
without proper oversight with regard to the rights of the average citizen.
The mission of the PSU is said
to be:
“Protective Policing — is
predicated on intelligence led investigations. Most will inherently view police
work as something that is reactive. ie. Somebody is threatened and we respond
accordingly. Intelligence based policing is proactive, and in the case of
protective services, attempts to identify potential concerns and disconcerting
behavior, and through a risk analysis endeavors to assign threat levels and
implement corrective measures before an act of targeted violence occurs.”
This particular paragraph
shows all the signs of being copied out of some sort of RNC operations manual.
The words used seem carefully
chosen to justify and protect the work of the PSU.
For now, we must assume they
accurately describe how the PSU works – it’s pro-active, uses “intelligence
gathering” and extends Province wide.
And , one is entitled to ask
in light of the Dunphy shooting, has a tendency to see threats where the
average person would not ?
So all citizens need to read
the Officer X’s letter carefully.
Citizens should also find out
as much as they can about this PSU “Unit”.
But good luck, as the pickings
on the net seem scarce; if you check the
RNC website, the PSU is nowhere to be
found in a long list of some 33 different units/services
But any RNC Unit that may be
using “disconcerting behavior ” as a test warranting police scrutiny is, in
itself, frightening enough to deserve everyone’s strict attention.
Or was the use of
“disconcerting” just a poor choice of words by an officer under great stress?
Please Premier Davis, we’ve
seen and heard enough.
Bring some clarity to the
Dunphy affair by immediately putting in motion the process of calling a
Judicial Inquiry under the provincial Public Inquiries Act
– one that includes a full
review of the PSU, its mandate and its method of operations.
How else can you possibly
expect your Administration to retain even a shred of credibility?
Cabot Martin lives in St. John’s. 


Bill left public life shortly after the signing of the Atlantic Accord and became a member of the Court of Appeal until his retirement in 2003. During his time on the court he was involved in a number of successful appeals which overturned wrongful convictions, for which he was recognized by Innocence Canada. Bill had a special place in his heart for the underdog.

Churchill Falls Explainer (Coles Notes version)

If CFLCo is required to maximize its profit, then CFLCo should sell its electricity to the highest bidder(s) on the most advantageous terms available.


This is the most important set of negotiations we have engaged in since the Atlantic Accord and Hibernia. Despite being a small jurisdiction we proved to be smart and nimble enough to negotiate good deals on both. They have stood the test of time and have resulted in billions of dollars in royalties and created an industry which represents over a quarter of our economy. Will we prove to be smart and nimble enough to do the same with the Upper Churchill?


  1. Agree totally with this view. The only comment that I would add to this is for Bill Janes to climb down off his horse with all the get tough talk about discipling who ever leaked the letter, that is if it was a leak. First of all no RNC officer, especially in this situation would have such broad access to the internal e-mail system without being given approval and assistance with the text of this letter. Secondly, if an internal review were conducted, likely as with past situations such as the Kelly/Buckle farce, the review would result in "we see no issue here". If giving a subordinate the heads up and instructions as to how to escape criminal charges didn't warrant any disciplinary action, than please spare yourself the time and effort. It is incidents of mismanagement such as this, that do a great injustice to the truly hard working member of the RNC who suffer the embarrassment.

  2. ?Surprised to see no comments on this yet!
    Excellent clear concise commentary. We must have this inquiry. If we don't, there can no be no other logical conclusion than: "Here we go again…. another cover up". Another cover up from an administration that brought us Bill C-29; that attempted to covertly do away with our cherished Department of Justice by calling it by another tricky name in an attempt to slowly but surely edge us away from what that Department's original mandate focused on; that brought in an unelected, friend of whoever, to head up that Department. Is this an administration we want to lead us into a democratic, personal rights oriented future? Is this an administration being lead by people who believe that they are the only one's capable of knowing what's best for the lowly masses of the Province? Will Newfoundlanders and Labradorians be the first populous in the country to bow down and accept as a fact that the best way forward in today's new world order is to allow a governance system resembling that practiced in past police states? Just asking!!!

  3. This article speaks for a lot of us. I was always pro-police. Now, I think of them with disgust. The Permier's Office is filled with arrogance. I need my confidence restored in our police. This whole situation has me, and many others, very upset and it will not end just because the Premier choosed to not investigate his friends and staff, it will only build.

  4. I tried to find the link in Mr. Martin's article but it said the page does not exist…..has someone removed it from the public eye? The more I see and hear about this situation…. the more troubling it becomes.

    Others have spoken eloquently about the need for a Public Inquiry and one certainly is warranted. Most troubling to me, though, is how secretive, how dictator-like, the administration that runs this province has become. This sad chapter is but the latest example of the police-state mentality on Confederation Hill….made all the more sad by the totally needless death of a troubled man who was trying to get his voice heard for what was apparently a long time.

    Shame on the politicians who have usurped authority in the province and shame on the people if it is allowed to continue.