Ex Cop tells students their options when faced with an Active Shooter or Disaster


Screenshot 2014-05-16 05.01.24


Home » News » Retired officer highlights options for violent encounters

Thursday, May, 15, 2014 – 2:02:08 PM
Retired officer highlights options for violent encounters
By Melissa Murray
Kitchener Post staff
According to Gary Askin, a retired Waterloo Regional Police Service investigator, every kid needs to be a stakeholder in their own safety.
And it’s a message he is trying to spread. (see video here)
Last Thursday, Askin presented a workshop to a group of Specialist High School Major Program students at Conestoga College about emergency preparedness and what they should do if they are confronted with a violent encounter.
It was just recently that Askin realized students are taught only one thing if there is a lockdown — hide, lock the door and turn off the lights.
“It’s kind of an outdated policing perspective, but it only looks good on paper,” he said.
But people have options, whether that’s in a school setting or in an office.
Askin promotes three different options for people faced with a violent encounter, like an active shooting: run, hide or act.

It’s a method unlike what he said is currently being taught in schools and is based on FBI and Homeland Security training.
“We’ve got to change the model. Frequently, the best option is to get safely away,” he said.
“I’m not sure why that option was never given to kids.”
Askin said some training could have saved the students in the South Korean ferry disaster last month.
Many who died listened to the ship’s captain and remained on the ferry until it sank, while others saw help on its way and opted to jump into the water.
“It is so sad to see other kids wait for help that didn’t come,” he said.
After working with WRPS for more than 30 years, Askin said emergency preparedness is something he is passionate about and is really needed. His workshop also covers what to do in the event of a fire, flood, earthquakes and other disasters, but much of the focus is on violent encounters.
“The chances are you are more likely to be injured in a violent encounter than a fire,” he said.
But when it comes to acting, he said that doesn’t necessarily mean a fight.
“It could mean throwing a stapler. You do what you have to,” he said.
Askin is hoping to spread his message through local high schools and also in area workplaces.
“Kids are entitled to know their options and have to fight for their lives. I know it’s scary, but the alternative is worse.”
“If a shooter lines students up and starts firing and your kid is number five, fighting for their life might be their only option . . . giving up should not be an option,” he said.
Since 2011, Conestoga College has brought in more than 1,500 students for workshops like Askin’s, according to Mike Diamond, manager of corporate training at the college.
A variety of workshops, including safe food handling, basic boating and smart serve courses have been offered previously.
That assortment is what engages students.
“The variety means they will strike a cord with somebody,” he said.
And Askin hopes something from his presentation will help the 16 students as they finish high school.
“I hope when they leave they have the confidence to make good decisions. Now they should know what to do to survive.”

see http://www.iiso.ca

Investigative Intelligence Solutions Ontario -iiso.ca

Training students and workers on what their options are when faced with a violent encounter makes good sense. iiso offers a 3 hour workshop that teaches you when to run, hide or act. These are life saving strategies that haven’t been taught to most Canadians. Everyone must be a stakeholder in their own safety. We owe it to our kids and employees.

Who pays the price for TO Mayor Rob Ford ?

Reporters who broke Ford story paid heavy price


By Gary Askin

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s trail of victims appears to be growing, and his family may be counted among them.

His wife, and particularly his children, must have personally felt the repercussions of Ford’s destructive behaviour. Then there are the citizens he let down, his colleagues at Toronto city hall that he accused of being corrupt, the police he accused of conspiring against him, and on and on.

We might even include every Canadian he embarrassed during his recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s talk show.

I’m sure Toronto Star reporters Robyn Doolittle, Kevin Donovan and Daniel Dale don’t consider themselves victims of Ford, but clearly, they felt his wrath when they exposed him.

After being spotted looking at parkland behind Ford’s residence, Dale was accosted by the mayor, who then insinuated the reporter was there to take pictures of Ford’s children.

The police eventually exonerated Dale, and Ford was forced to recant and apologize.

When Doolittle and Donovan broke the story of Ford smoking crack cocaine, their lives changed dramatically. In her book Crazy Town: The Rob Ford Story, Doolittle explains the ramifications of reporting on the infamous crack video involving the mayor.

“The attacks came from every angle — letters, email, phone, Twitter, texts, Facebook, talk radio, and conservative columnists. Four months later and they were still coming. Donovan and I were getting death threats and harassing calls at all hours of the night. The paper was under siege with complaints.”

It didn’t end there, as the Ontario Press Council heard a public complaint made against the Toronto Star for its story on the crack video. The council dismissed the complaint, and said the Star had “followed appropriate journalistic guidelines.”

Given that Ford had referred to members of the Toronto Star, and other media, as “pathological liars and scumbags,” and said they “couldn’t be trusted,” it’s no wonder an Ipsos poll taken shortly after these events showed nearly half of the respondents in Toronto thought the reporters were lying.

Ford leveraged these events and used his now-cancelled radio talk show to reinforce anti-media sentiment, while promoting the idea that there was a conspiracy against him involving the media and the chief of police.

The press council and the public ultimately vindicated these reporters when Police Chief Bill Blair publicly revealed the video in question had been found.

These journalists paid a price for doing their job. They were threatened, harassed and called liars, and why? Because an elected official knew the truth, yet refused to acknowledge it. What’s worse, he didn’t just sit back and offer a “no comment.” He attacked these reporters just to bury the facts from the public.

The Star reporters had acted responsibly and in the best interests of the community on a matter that was of significant public concern. It’s unfortunate that vindication is the only reward they get. They deserve more for bringing this story to light and discovering a truth that most couldn’t comprehend.

The Star reporters — and the Toronto Police Service — served their public well, and despite Ford’s rabid attacks, denials and accusations, they won’t complain. They will let the facts speak for themselves and let the public decide Ford’s fate.

I know Torontonians may forgive Ford for his embarrassing character flaws and his substance abuse problems. Canadians, in general, are forgiving people, and Torontonians are no different. What I don’t know is how a mayor who is sworn to serve the public can readily connive and attack the same public with such vitriol, just to save his own skin.

For a politician that is unforgivable, inexcusable and in Ford’s case, should be politically fatal.


Gary Askin, of Waterloo, is a recently retired police officer who is now a licensed private investigator.

How safe is Medical marihuana ?

marihuana rx

Is Medical Marijuana Safe? Does anyone really know?

By Gary Askin


As of April this year, Canadians have a new way of accessing marijuana in Canada. The new regulations, can be found under the Health Canada website under the Marijuana for Medical Purposes (MMPR) regulations.

With Liberal leader Justin Trudeau calling for marijuana legalization and an anticipated 1.3 billion dollar a year (by 2024) pot industry about to explode,corporate executives are now eagerly rubbing their hands together and lining up to get into the legal pot business.

But with all the fuss and giddy anticipation one wonders; is medicinal marijuana actually safe to use? Did it pass through Health Canada’s time consuming, arduous approval process, as every other drug has to, before it is unleashed on Canadians? Have we conducted appropriate clinical trials? How about pharmacology, toxicology or micro biology testing?

This seemed like a simple question when I started my search at the Health Canada website.  I found three companies listed as licensed marijuana producers.

Cannimed Ltd, Mettrum Ltd and a group called the Peace Naturals Project which were  granted Health Canada’s approval to produce and sell marijuana to Canadians.

I checked their websites to see if they could assure me that their medical marijuana is safe for consumption. It’s interesting that Cannimed and the Peace Naturals websites, address marijuana safety in their FAQ section.  Unfortunately, neither will answer their own question. Both responses are eerily similar and discuss testing for ingredients and contaminants, and a recall process “in the unlikely event of a problem”.

Wait a minute, what? They don’t elaborate on what kind of problem they refer to.

Mettrum doesn’t have a FAQ page on their website but state they will be offering a marijuana product that will meet or exceed 17% levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC  which is the active ingredient that makes you high)

You heard that right. 17 %  THC.

If you’re my age the stuff they were passing around at the Flock of Seagulls concert in 1980, boasted a mind altering 1-2 % THC.

ted marihuana

This reminded me of the scene from the movie TED where Mark Wahlberg’s talking stuffed bear is telling him of new highly potent strain of pot called “This may be Permanent”, “They’re Coming They’re Coming” and one blend called “Gorilla Panic”

17 % thc in marihuana- is that safe?

I did not get an answer from the licensed producers whether or not this new high-powered, ultra potent, medicinal marijuana is safe to use. I went back to Health Canada to ask the  professionals. Surely the scientists who are tasked with our safety and health care needs and whose goal is to;

“Communicate information about disease prevention to protect Canadians from avoidable risks” and who’s mission is to provide Canadians with  “credible information and reliable advice”  

and can answer two simple questions pertaining to marijuana’s safety and approval process.

After 7 calls and an email to various divisions tasked with providing information on medical marijuana no one would or could answer my questions.

Each time I asked, I was directed to send an email asking the same questions.

No one would volunteer their last names and kept referring me back and forth from the MMPR program to the  Regulatory Project Management Division to the Consumer Product Safety Division.

Same answer “send an email”.

I did get a call back from Christine Leroux an employee of the Regulatory Project Management Division, who felt I should call Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch to get my answers.

I called them and asked the Health Canada employee;

“Did marijuana go through the same testing process as other approved drugs?”

His response “I’m not positive”

I asked “Is it safe to use?” I was told I would have to send an email as he could not comment on such an issue.

I replied  “If you work for Health Canada and can’t tell me if a drug is safe to use? Do you know who can?

“No comment”.

I never dreamed that two simple questions would be so difficult to answer by the persons entrusted to look after the health and safety of Canadians.

After a day of attempting to get answers on marijuana safety and approvals from our entrusted Health Canada officials, and  navigating throughout the massive Health Canada website, I stumbled upon a posting on the Health Canada website;

Cannabis (marihuana, marijuana) is not an approved therapeutic product and the provision of this information should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, or of cannabis generally, by Health Canada. Cannabis has not been authorized through the standard Health Canada drug approval process because the available scientific evidence does not establish the safety and efficacy of cannabis to the extent required by the Food and Drug Regulations for marketed drugs in Canada


There it was. The corporate messaging no one at Health Canada could give me.

It appears Health Canada doesn’t know if medical marijuana is safe (or effective).

This was a simple question. The answer was they just don’t know.

We have all heard stories of ground breaking medications being developed and used in other countries that Canadians can’t access as they haven’t been studied and approved.

Why is marihuana the exception and why did our government overlook all the protective rules and processes designed to ensure our safety, just to fast track this drug into our hands?

pot pharmacist

Health Canada has had its critics in the past. When it set up the initial Medical Marihuana Access program in 2000, it allowed prescribed users to grow pot in their own residences. The dangers of marihuana home grows have been well documented. Yet Health Canada allowed these potential fire hazards to exist throughout our country.

When requested by Waterloo Regional Police Chief Matt Torigian to identify these locations, to mitigate our community and EMS workers from potential explosions and or fires, Health Canada refused to divulge where they were located or even how many there were.

A follow up discussion with David Juurlink an MD, a clinical pharmacologist and drug safety researcher at Sunnybrook Health Sciences center in Toronto, about Health Canada’s decision to approve the addictive generic form of oxycodone stated:

“What little is known about how drugs are given the ok, would alarm Canadians dependent on them, and even the doctors prescribing them”

Health Canada never approved medical marijuana and yet with no scientific evidence of safety or efficacy, it’s available for use anyway.

When I pick up my cholesterol medication the pharmacist briefs me on dosages, contra-indications, how and when to take it and just in case Im not listening, he staples 3 more pages of information to my little pill bag.

Not the case with medical marihuana. With a prescription it will arrive on your door step. No briefing, no information on clinical trials or potential addiction. No idea what will happen when you consume it.

Unfortunately, if someone has an adverse medical reaction to the 17 % thc levels of our government sponsored marijuana ,it will not be because of a missed, miniscule detail or a small flaw in the system.

It will be because this is exactly how the system has been designed.


(ps  as of January 24/2014 Health Canada stills hasn’t returned my emails with an answer)

Gary Askin is a recently retired police officer who is now a licensed private investigator.

Lesson Learned


By Gary J.  Askin

I got lost last weekend in Michigan. I’m over fifty now so getting lost trying to find a hockey rink around Detroit, isn’t surprising.  While searching for it, I ended up passing Romulus High School.

On their front lawn I noticed a massive wave of bright yellow flags stuck in the ground on the school property. There were hundreds or maybe even thousands of them waving in the wind, demanding attention.

They covered the property and even at a distance were impossible to miss.Image

“Check this out” I said having no clue what the occasion was.

As I slowed I read a banner amidst the yellow flags that said in large letters


The realization of this message hit me like a truck and I immediately felt the power this image intended to convey. This was no celebration.

I assumed that each flag represented a victim of bullying. I later discovered it was worse than that. I felt an immediate rush of sadness and empathy for those who have suffered at the hands of  bullies .

I circled around to get a closer look.

“By the time you read this another student will be bullied” the sign read.

It further explained that over 2 million students are bullied every year in America. The last line shocked me even more. That each flag represented

“ just under 3000 children”.


The flags were too numerous to count. The fact that each one represented 3000  child victims really struck me as to how pervasive and prevalent, bullying is.

As a police officer, I have spent much of my career fighting for victims, investigating those who hurt, harass and exploit. Yet now, I wished I could have done more. This was an image of thousands of children asking for help. I felt ashamed that we as adults couldn’t do more to protect our youth from this type of abuse.Later that day, I did some checking and found the Romulus High School web site that explained the program. I learned that bullying is still a growing epidemic and that each day 160,000 students skip school because they don’t feel safe.

Much has been written on bullying in today’s social media era. Rick Mercer once ranted that adults frequently treat Anti Bullying Week like National Nutrition Week and just ignore it. It’s bad enough that kids feel the wrath of their tormentors for eight hours at school but now come home for even more late night social media abuse. As Mercer says

“the greatest thing about being an adult is that no matter how bad things get, you never have to  back to Grade 9 ever again”

I hope this campaign develops some social media traction as this message speaks volumes without the  “in your face” “shock and awe” delivery that accompany many similar campaigns.

Waterloo Region has seen its share of anti bullying campaigns.  Finding one that continually resonates with the public is always a challenge. Finding one that our kids don’t think is lame is even tougher.


The Romulus High School web site also offered great tips for bullies and the bullied.

They also offer a pledge, which the signor agrees to

1) Stop being part of the problem

2) Stand up to people that are making others feel uncomfortable

3) Support people that may be a victim of bullying.

Madison Small, Jawann Gaskin and organizers from Romulus High School should be proud of their efforts and know that they are making a difference. Without question they accomplished what they set out to do; create awareness about bullying.

Their simple, direct message contained within such a powerful visual image caused me to explore the topic, visit their school web site and write this article -which I hope creates even more awareness.

I got lost last weekend in Michigan but I found Romulus High School. I also found a school committed to making systemic change to a world wide problem.

With just a quick glance this campaign took me back to grade nine, reminded me how widespread bullying is and encouraged me to take action.

Thanks Romulus.

Ps. November 17-23’rd is bullying awareness week in Canada. (Don’t treat it like Nutrition Week)


Some of My Favorite Books

The Chaos Imperative How Chance and DisruptionIncrease Innovation by Ori Brafman and Judah Pollack

Seeing What Others Don’recyclked bookt by Gary Klein

Makers: The New Industrial revolution by Chris Anderson

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World by Frans Johansson

The Wisdom of the Crowds by James Surowiecki

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath

Medici Effect: What You can Learn from Elephants and Epidemics byFrans Johanssen

The Innovators DNA:Mastering the Five Skills of disruptive Innovators by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton M. Christensen

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights by Daniel Golman

The Myth of Choice: Personal Responsibility in a World of Limits by Kent Greenfield

Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer

Freakonomics Steven  Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Wilful Blindness:Why we Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril by Margaret Heffernan

Tangling with Tyrants: Managing the Balance of Power at Work by Tony Deblauwe

Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Steven Dubner

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

The Black Swan:Impact of the Highly probable Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less for More by Chris Anderson

Everything by Malcolm Gladwell

Taking Note

police notes

“I wish I would have drank more last night”

Have you ever noticed no one ever says these words?

No one ever complains that they had a crummy night because they didn’t have those extra three tequila shots. Nobody ever says how stupid they were because they didn’t finish the whole bottle. But we have all heard complaints from those (including me) who regret their excesses.

Policing is no different. No investigator  ever says “boy I wish I wouldn’t have made so many notes”

This never happens. Our problem is almost always because we don’t make enough notes. Like regretting over consumption, many of us have experienced the pain of under-preparation and going to court with only a few pages of notes for what amounts to a significant investigation.  This is that sick feeling in your gut when you realized your lack of notes is now the ammunition the defence will use  to make their case while embarrassing you.  It doesn’t matter what it is- it just matters that whatever you left out will now become the crucial element the defence will use to further their case.

You were there- you saw it-you experienced it but for some reason you didn’t include this pertinent fact in your notes. You know your about to get publicly clobbered and you begin secretly hoping for a plea bargain so you don’t end up in the media looking like a dufus.

Worse yet- don’t you hate it when your “Will Say” statement  is considerably longer than your actual notes? Why does this happen and what can we do about it?

This site offers some great tips and advice for anyone who is about to testify.


Whether your an experienced cop or a civilian about to take the stand, take a minute and refresh your memory on what is expected of you in court.

Remember -following this advice for a successful day in court is predicated on having complete and comprehensive notes.

So take your time, make detailed, copious notes.

Even if you had that extra tequila the night before; having complete, detailed notes will ease that tension and ensure that you did everything possible for your case.

The Social Media Tool you really need (and its not Facebook)

Originally published in Blue Line magazine November 2012

I caught my 15 year old daughter doing something extremely embarrassing the other day. I walked into the family room and there she was lying on the carpet, feet up on the couch and she was- if you can believe it, talking on the telephone.

I was stunned.

“What are you doing?” I said pointing to the adult only communication device.

She flashed me that you are too stupid to live look that only a teenager can pull off.

Her:     “It’s a phone why wouldn’t I use it?”

Me:      “I dunno, you have spent the last 4 years constantly texting, BBM’ing, Tweeting and Facebook’ing. I’ve never actually seen you use a telephone” 

Her:     “This is so much easier” as she rolled her eyes in disgust “And I don’t get creeped”

Interesting, I thought to myself. I wondered if my teen was getting weary of social media in general and did she just use “creep” as a verb?

My three teenage kids have always been the barometer for me on what’s in and what’s “so two hours ago”.

I knew about Down with Webster, hash tagging and Heelys before any of my fellow parents. My kids are continually opening my eyes to new opportunities and don’t hesitate to let me know what is passé.

Teenagers are realizing what, law enforcement already knows about Facebook; that communicating your likes, desires, wishes and friends builds a database on yourself.

Facebook sells this information to advertisers. Facebook ads reflect your interests which is no coincidence.  But which other creepy people are also exploiting this open source information?

As a cop, it’s a wonderful tool for us to have criminals populate their own dossier profiles for us.

As we saw in the N.H.L. hockey riots last year in Vancouver, some suspects can’t help but post pictures of themselves committing crimes. They may as well just nominate themselves for arrest.

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