The study describes the psychopathology that afflicts organizations when communication between managers and the managed breaks down. As the chapter describes, in most cases, the Nut Island Effect “features a similar set of antagonists—a dedicated, cohesive team and distracted senior managers—whose conflict follows a predictable behavioral pattern.” The team develops an outsider mentality, both heroic and isolated. Eventually, communications become so strained that the workers feel taken for granted, and both sides lose focus on the job at hand. Senior management turns a blind eye to operational dysfunction until catastrophe hits. At that point someone becomes the fall guy and all bets are off.
This resonated with Heinemann because it seemed to map his and other officers’ experience with the opp since Ipperwash: eight years later, the force was definitely in the throes of the Nut Island Effect.
The opp formed its first tru team in 1975 in the wake of the Los Angeles Police Department’s creation of Special Weapons and Tactics units. The first swat team emerged in the late 1960s following the Watts Riots and the emergence of heavily armed domestic groups, notably the Black Panthers, which taught the lapd that the standard snub-nosed .38-calibre pistol in the hand of an average cop just didn’t cut it in the face of home-grown terrorism. By 2004, virtually every decent-sized police force in North America had a tactical team.
Today, the opp has three tru teams with twelve members apiece. Based in Orillia, London, and Odessa (near Kingston), each costs upwards of $5 million to form and, with additional equipment, maintenance, and training, millions more every year to maintain. As with other swat teams, the tru mandate includes dealing with barricaded subjects, hostage crises, high-risk warrants, dog tracking, witness protection, court security, and prisoner escorts. Gaining membership is a tough slog. Heinemann and his fellow candidates underwent a two-week selection process that required them to be in tip-top shape and included sleep deprivation and psychological testing. Those who made the grade then went through a five-week training course on the principles of site containment followed by another five-week course on clearing and a three-week course on how to advance on a site. Specialists did additional training—bomb technicians for another nine weeks, rappel masters four, and snipers three. Only a fraction of those who applied made the cut, but once on board they became part of an elite fighting force accorded considerable respect among the rank and file. Heinemann had always been proud he had “the right stuff.”
Heinemann was edgy and dog-tired that early January morning. For the past month, the Barrie tru had been putting in extremely long days, every day of the week. To make things worse, Heinemann’s two young sons were restless and irritable, and he and his wife, Toni, were hard-pressed to get even three hours of uninterrupted sleep. Heinemann had just returned home after a forty-hour stint, part of which was spent supervising the clear of a massive marijuana grow op in the abandoned Molson brewery building south of Barrie. He had just fallen into a deep sleep when his pager went off.
Chippewa conjured up the bête noire of recent opp history. Located in the southwest corner of the province and only seventy kilometres northwest of the Chippewa of the Thames reserve, Ipperwash had been one of Heinemann’s first calls as a tru team member. In September 1995, after years of futile negotiations with the government to recover land the Chippewa claimed as their own, a group of about thirty natives from the Kettle and Stony Point reserves occupied a piece of land that had been incorporated into the park. On September 5, the press reported that the government was about to seek an injunction to have the native protesters removed, but they refused to budge. More than 250 opp officers, including two tru teams, descended on the park. By the time the smoke cleared, Dudley George was dead.