By macleans.ca - Wednesday, December 19, 2012 - 0 Comments
Canada’s ‘toughest cop,’ he took on some of Montreal’s most notorious thugs, once shooting the testicles off a thief
Albert Lisacek was born on July 13, 1933, in Montreal’s multicultural Mile End neighbourhood, in a two-bedroom rental apartment. His parents, Mary and Joseph, had immigrated to Canada from the former Czechoslovakia in 1927. Albert’s five-foot-eleven mother gave birth to three more boys—all of them at home. His father, who had been a strongman in a Slovenian circus, later worked in Montreal’s shipyards and as a night watchman.
Albert, a serious child who loved western novels, had to fight off bullies in their tough immigrant neighbourhood. When he was 15, five teens confronted him on a Mount Royal trail. He took off, the teens in hot pursuit. Running down Park Avenue, he pounded on the door of an elderly woman who let him hide out until the teens went away. Albert never wanted to feel so helpless again. That day, he decided he would become a police officer. He began spending hours in a basement gym. By age 20, he stood six foot two, weighed 250 lb. and was a formidable force as a part-time bouncer at a Saint Catherine Street nightclub.
When he was 23, Albert applied to the Sûreté du Québec (SQ). The hulking young man was hired on the spot, assigned to a post guarding cells at SQ headquarters. When an inmate in a cell of eight hurled an insult at him, Albert entered and locked the door, smacking three men with his big hand before the fourth in line identified the culprit. Criminals began calling the new hire “Dirty Albert” and “le chien” (the dog). To co-workers, he was “Little Albert,” and later, when he shaved his head, “Kojak,” after TV’s tough and incorruptible cop.
He married Claudia in 1960. They didn’t have children, but rarely took out their pink-finned Cadillac without their three dogs: Teppy, a schnauzer, Cheetah, a 160-lb. mastiff, and Radar, a mutt.
In 1961, Albert was promoted to detective. “I was good at getting rid of the bad people,” he told journalist Warren Perley, for a feature article that was published at BestStory.ca in July. The SQ’s so-called “holdup squad” came calling—the team that responded to armed robberies. He was soon breaking down doors, his Thompson submachine gun always in hand. Before a raid, Albert would pray: “I hope to hell this isn’t my last time.”
By then, death threats had grown routine. Albert took on some of Montreal’s most notorious gangsters and thugs, including Richard “the Cat” Blass, who’d survived four assassination attempts and escaped prison three times. In 1969, Blass was arrested for a bank robbery in Sherbrooke, Que. Albert was assigned to escort him to court. During the drive to the courthouse, Blass bragged that his buddies were planning to hold up the police van to bust him out. “First thing I’ll do is blow your head off,” Albert shot back. During a break in the trial, a man leaned too far over the defendant’s table. Albert, fearing he might pass Blass a gun, pulled him from the room and smashed his face into an elevator door, breaking his nose in a bloody mess.
On March 19, 1972, The Canadian Magazine named him “Canada’s toughest cop.” If ever there were a doubt, Albert proved it six months later, when he shot the testicles off a thief who was fleeing a robbery in the Montreal suburb of Verdun.
Albert’s next run-in with Blass came on Jan. 21, 1975. Blass, who had escaped from prison a ﬁnal time, locked 13 people in a beer-storage room in Montreal’s Gargantua Bar and lit it on fire. All 13 died. Three days later, Albert and a team of officers tailed Blass to Val-David, north of Montreal, and surrounded him. Albert and two other officers barged in; Blass, who was unarmed, was shot 27 times. Albert didn’t shoot him. “I would have preferred to bring Blass in alive,” Albert told journalist Perley.
SQ brass, tired of dealing with headlines and negative press surrounding Albert’s exploits, moved him to a desk job. In 1981, at age 48, he took early retirement. Years of kicking down doors and chasing bad guys had taken their toll. His knees bothered him, and he had trouble getting around. Albert liked collecting John Wayne memorabilia and watching action movies on TV. Claudia died in 1999 and Albert married Jacqueline Richer, a cousin by marriage, calling her “mon ange,” and “ma chérie.” The couple moved to the country north of Montreal, where Albert’s softer side emerged. “He had a very tender heart,” says Richer. “When he saw there was no justice, he wanted to make justice.”
On Nov. 1, Albert was diagnosed with colon cancer. Canada’s toughest cop, who’d hunted down some of the country’s most dangerous criminals, passed away quietly three weeks later, on Nov. 20. He was 79.
Warren Perley’s 17,000-word feature story on the life of Albert Lisacek is available at BestStory.ca.
By Richard Warnica - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 9:20 AM - 0 Comments
The Conservative government’s so-called “tough on crime” agenda is creating a predictable crunch in…
The Conservative government’s so-called “tough on crime” agenda is creating a predictable crunch in federal prisons. According to documents obtained by the Globe and Mail, prisoners have been sleeping in trailers, interview rooms and gymnasiums in recent years, even as the number of inmates sleeping two-to-a-one-person-cell continues to climb.
Federal incarceration rates have been climbing of late after remaining generally static or falling for decades. From the Globe:
Part of the latest increase can be attributed to the government’s tough-on-crime agenda. At the same time, the government will lose 1,000 beds after it closes aging penal facilities such as Kingston Penitentiary and Leclerc Institution in Laval, Que., but says it will more than make up the difference with new units.
The Office of the Correctional Investigator has fielded increasing complaints from both inmates and corrections staff about double-bunking. Two areas of concern are the Edmonton Institute for Women, where women have been housed in interview rooms and family visiting areas, and Kitchener, Ont.’s Grand Valley Institution, which set up a trailer for up to 16 women inmates. Across Canada, the percentage of inmates double-bunking rose from 9.4 in August, 2009 to 17.4 in April, 2012 – nearly three times the historic low of 6.1 per cent in 2004.
Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced plans Wednesday to make more inmates pay for their own room and board while incarcerated. One thing he doesn’t want them to pay for, however, is porn.
By Ken MacQueen and Patricia Treble - Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 108 Comments
The crime rate is down but police forces are growing. We’re poorer as a result, but not necessarily any safer.
This spring, Tamara Cartwright dropped off an envelope at her local post office outside Lethbridge, Alta. A friend had sent her a jar of hemp-based ointment, so she replied with a thank you card, wrote her name and return address on the envelope and, in a decision certain to haunt her for years to come, enclosed four grams of her homegrown marijuana, enough for perhaps four cigarettes. On an April morning some days later she returned to the post office to pick up another package. Moments later, police pulled her over, handcuffed her, put her in a cruiser and hauled her off to the police station.
It made quite a spectacle, says the 41-year-old mother of four, who suffers from colitis and is one of more than 10,000 medical marijuana patients registered with Health Canada. “It was embarrassing,” she says. “I was still in my pyjamas.” She emerged four hours later with a trafficking charge for giving away those four grams.
Her charge is part of a recent marked increase in arrests for cannabis offences. Cannabis arrests jumped 13 per cent in 2010 to 75,126. Of those, almost 57,000 were for simple possession, a 14 per cent jump from the year before. (The statistics reflect cases where the arrest was the most serious charge a person faced, not the thousands more where a pot charge was tacked onto a string of more serious crimes.) The cannabis arrest rate is an anomaly at a time when the overall crime rate in 2010 fell to its lowest level since the mid-1970s.
By the editors - Thursday, August 25, 2011 at 9:50 AM - 8 Comments
With Canada’s crime rate at its lowest since the 1970s, why is the government spending more money on throwing people in jail?
How tough is tough enough when it comes to crime?
A Maclean’s investigation this week by Ken MacQueen and Patricia Treble (“Too many cops?”) offers a surprising look at the unintended consequences of Canada’s recent tough-on-crime agenda.
The overall crime rate in Canada is at its lowest level since the early 1970s, and serious crime is similarly falling. This is good news, of course. And it may in large part be due to the fact that police staffing levels are at a 30-year high nationwide.
And yet MacQueen and Treble uncover plenty of statistical and anecdotal evidence to suggest it may be possible to have too many cops on the street. Beside the obvious budgetary issues, local constabularies around the country are spending a disproportionate amount of their time on increasingly minor offences in an apparent effort to keep busy. Drug possession and traffic violations appear to be the only significant growth areas in the national criminal portfolio.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 30, 2011 at 1:18 PM - 36 Comments
Alex Himelfarb considers the revolution in crime policy that is about to pass the House.
Our greater openness to these “tough on criminals” policies and the reluctance of the opposition to take them on may reflect a more profound debasing of our politics, what the American critic Benjamin DeMott has called “Junk Politics”. In his articles and books, DeMott is not calling for more civility, politer politics; he doesn’t mind a good fight, it seems. His concern with contemporary politics is bigger than that; it resides in its refusal to lead citizens to higher ground, to challenge us, to inspire us to find our better selves. Instead, he says, it panders to our worst sentiments. personalises everything, derides experts and evidence, tells us that we are great as we are, that we have every right to feel morally superior. It divides the world up into good and bad, black and white. Nuance kills. This world, to paraphrase sociologist Orrin Klapp, is destructively divided up into heroes – “hard-working, law-abiding tax payers” ; villains – criminals, terrorists and would-be terrorists; and fools – all the elites and so-called experts who are soft on crime and soft on terror. This view gives not much space to idea of redemption or, for that matter, to compassion and brooks no debate on what the evidence might tell us or about the costs of punishment.
By Philippe Gohier - Monday, June 29, 2009 at 6:00 PM - 39 Comments
I guess the Conservatives figure they can’t do much worse in Quebec so they…
I guess the Conservatives figure they can’t do much worse in Quebec so they might as well go whole-hog on the gutter politics. There’s really no other explanation for their decision to mail a bunch of brain-dead pamphlets to constituents in Bloc-heavy ridings accusing Duceppe’s troops of being “opposed to the protection of children,” a reference to the Bloc’s opposition to a private member’s bill that would set a mandatory minimum sentence of 18 years for those convicted of trafficking in minors:
On the first page, we see a young girl and slogans. The back page features an empty swing seat in a park. In the distance, a man is walking away, holding a child by the hand. All of it is set against a murky background that leaves the rest to the imagination.
There’s already a chasm between the Tories and Quebecers when it comes to all this “tough on crime” nonsense. Trying to goad the Bloc into a spitting match over who wants to send people to jail for the longest amount of time isn’t likely to bridge it. Quite simply, the Bloc has no reason to take the bait. Continue…
By Philippe Gohier - Tuesday, November 18, 2008 at 7:51 PM - 11 Comments
Mario Dumont can complain all he wants about having been publicly savaged by Chantal…
Mario Dumont can complain all he wants about having been publicly savaged by Chantal Hébert at the end of last year’s election campaign. He keeps proving she was right when she said he’s nowhere near having a coherent idea how to govern the province.
Few would argue Dumont would have gotten as far as he did in the last election had Quebecers not collectively wet their panties worrying about immigration. Intellectual curiosity has never been the ADQ’s strongest asset, and the party’s newest blindfolded stab at relevance shows just how little Dumont and the gang have learned in their disastrous turn as official opposition. After getting everyone riled up about those gosh darn foreigners and their wacky religions in 2007, the ADQ now figures Quebecers should shift their focus to more pressing matters. If you thought, “it must be the economy, stupid,” you lose. The correct answer is pedophiles, drunks, and street gangs. (“What’s that you say? The chief plank in our economic platform makes no sense whatsoever? Quick, look over there! There’s a creepy-looking guy typing at a computer!”)
By selley - Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 2:23 PM - 16 Comments
Must-read: James Travers on small-town Grits.
From the galas to the barricades…
Must-read: James Travers on small-town Grits.
From the galas to the barricades
Establishing the rules of cultural warfare in Quebec and the Rest of Canada.
Stephen Harper’s crime proposals—cracking down on conditional sentencing, increasing sentences for young offenders and publicly naming them, etc.—are nothing but pandering, Randall Denley fumes in the Ottawa Citizen, an appeal to the 40 per cent of blood-and-guts Canadians who might appreciate them and give him a majority, and to hell with the rest of us. “Most criminals are getting either jail time or probation, not a conditional sentence,” he notes. “In 2005/06, only 11,154 people received conditional sentences, Statistics Canada says, while 82,647 got jail time and 108,477 received probation.” Hmm, you don’t say. Sounds like we need to crack down on probation!
If Harper thinks naming and shaming young offenders and enhancing judicial discretion over sentencing will “curb youth crime,” Peter Worthington writes in the Toronto Sun, “he’s probably as out to lunch as Mayor [David] Miller is in expecting a ban on handguns to curb gun violence in Toronto.” The solution, he still maintains, is for politicians and police to be allowed to focus their attentions on the schools, neighbourhoods and ethnic communities in which the violence is most prevalent, so as to identify the true nature of the “disease” behind all the violence. He’s not wrong, but we still maintain this is already happening to a far greater degree than his political correctness hang-up will allow him to admit.
By selley - Friday, September 19, 2008 at 2:19 PM - 13 Comments
Must-reads: …Colby Cosh on the economic meltdown; Chantal Hébert on Gerard Kennedy’s big mistake;
Wayne Easter’s revenge
Why can’t the Harperites shut up and play nice?
The Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin believes the Liberals got off lucky yesterday with Gerry Ritz’s gallows humour dominating the news instead of whatever Stephen Harper, who recently described a $9-billion promise as “mind-boggling,” might have said about Stéphane Dion’s $70-billion infrastructure plan. In these trying financial times, Martin suggests we’re less in the mood for twelve-figure “vote-buying tactics” than we are for modest measures like, er, cracking down on banana-flavoured cigarillos. Lehman Brothers and AIG be damned, we’d respond—we want good roads and kids not to smoke, and we won’t be convinced it’s not possible!
Sun Media’s Greg Weston summarizes Harper’s response to the Ritz crackup as follows: “While [he] may have insulted and otherwise upset the families of 17 Canadians killed by tainted meat under his watch, that ‘should not detract from the good work that he has done,’”. (We’re not sure you can really “insult” someone in a private conversation to which he or she isn’t party, and suspect whichever bureaucrat leaked the conversation probably took far longer away from his or her job to do so than Ritz did to make his off-colour jokes. But never mind.) In any case, says Weston, each of these ongoing Tory gaffes and the ensuing apologies “likely negates a dozen of Harper’s homey sweater ads,” and not only do they throw the campaign off-message, they force Harper to actually “praise the public service” in hopes of plugging any future leaks. Gross! Like kissing your sister!