Manrique - Detective Steven Prenzl & His Pepper Spray GunThursday, November 17, 2016
|Constable Steven Prenzl - Vancouver Police -Sex/Crimes - May 1986|
Perhaps because I have managed to obey most civil laws my relationship with policemen, policewomen and police departments has been if sometimes not a happy one always a good one and I have been impressed by their sense of duty. Perhaps it has helped that I am a white man.
For me it all began sometime in the late 40s when I was around 8. My father, who was a journalist for the Buenos Aires Herald in Buenos Aires, had a frequent guest called Manrique. I never did ask my father if this was his first name or his last. But he was plainly a plain-clothes cop who had a shoulder holster. I was so impressed by it but never suspected that it was not until May of 1986 that I would eventually photograph a plain-clothes policeman showing that holster.
My experience with policeman in Argentina was slightly scary in 1954 when my mother took me to the police department in Buenos Aires to get my first passport. We were going to move to Mexico City. I did not kow then that because my mother had married a divorced man (and divorce was not recognized in Argentina) that she had her maiden’s name while I had my father’s. I had to bend the truth in answering questions if I were to be asked but luckily I wasn’t.
Back in Argentina in 1964 to do my obligatory military service ( I “won” the lottery and instead of 12 months in the army I got 24 in the navy). One of my nephews Georgito O’Reilly who was my age was in the army but his younger brother Ricardo decided to enlist in the police force. Then you could do that and you would get a higher pay (I received two dollars a month), 14 sure months with the police and better treatment. What was scary when I would watch Ricardo at the dinner table was that I knew he had a very short training period and there he was carrying a nasty .45. In fact in those years there were police blockades in Buenos Aires. If you were in a taxi you would be asked to get out by a young man (a police conscript) carrying a burp gun. Luckily I never did have any confrontation with any of those young men.
Back in Mexico where I was teaching at a Jesuit university called Universidad Iberoamericana there was a motorcycle policeman who would stop me at least once a year with a ,”High teach.” I caught on early that returning from my teaching I would empty my wallet and leave a small bill for the mordida (bribe). He would say I was speeding and if I wanted to contest the fact that he would take me to the police station. This is something you would avoid at all costs.
In 1975 before my wife, two children and I move to Vancouver I visited my friend Felipe Ferrer Junco (who worked for the Mexican Social Security Department as a lawyer) in Veracruz. He told me that before I left Mexico I needed at least to have a couple of drinks with him at a house of ill repute. This we did. While there I was eying a beautiful brunette dancing with a short man with big gun in his waist. Ferrer told me, “Don’t even look in his direction as he is the Veracruz Chief of Police.
In the early 90s I went back to Acapulco as I had convinced then Vancouver Magazine Editor that I could get access to the Chief of the Federal Police of Acapulco as my friend Ferrer was the man in question.
This I did and I wrote a very interesting piece for the Vancouver Magazine. I wrote a blog about Ferrer here and here.
But that photograph of a plain clothes policeman with a shoulder holster was a cover article for Vancouver Magazine called Main Street Blues. I photographed a young policeman, a veteran policeman, a policewoman, a policeman with a dog, a mounted policeman and a policeman and his motorcycle. I became friends with Constable Steve Prenzl who was with Sex/Crimes. Years later we would meet once a year for tea downtown. By then he was a homicide cop. He dressed in a long Holt Renfrew camel hair coat and wore burgundy tassel shoes. One day he said, “Do you want to see my new gun?” He pulled a pepper spray.
Quite a few years later I photographed a policeman called Gil Pruder. He had written a book about drugs and how the police department was using the wrong tactics. The folks at Douglas & McIntyre afraid of being sued by the Vancouver Police Department pulled the book from printing. Soon after, Pruder was found dead. There were two conflicting accounts on how he had died. I smelled a rat but nothing came about it and no investigation was ever made.
My next almost pleasant relationship with the Vancouver Police happened one Christmas in the mid-2000s. A young man called me up and threatened to burn my house down and torture my daughters if I did not return to him pictures I had taken of his new girlfriend that he deemed pornographic. I called the police. They set up in my phone a number I had to press when Tony the Taliban (as he was called). In the end I told my predicament to a local big time hood and a week later the police told me that because I had good friends I no longer had a problem. I wrote about that here.
Since that unfortunate event my dealings with the Vancouver Police have shown me how competent they are and how I believe they should make more money. I have had female policewomen in my Athlone home and now in my Kitsilano (because of a series of unfortunate events I am not at liberty to discuss here) and I have been impressed by their knowledge and their manners.
In one occasion believing the movies I have seen I went to the police station wanting to talk to the desk sargeant. That does not happen anymore! You are told to go home and to call the non-emergency phone number. Action is swift and courteous.
I have seen a female policewoman wrestle one of my young relatives to the ground and read her her rights as she put on handcuffs. These policemen and policewomen are highly trained. They are experts in knowing how to defuse situations.
The only demerit that I can write about (and this is my personal opinion) was the firing of Kim Rossmo who went on to the United States where his revolutionary methods of crime profiling based on geographic mapping were amply appreciated.