The Keystone Kops were a famous Hollywood "short film" troop that made purely slapstick comedy on celluloid in the early days of silent film. Their successors can be found in a series of "Police Academy" films made in the 1980s and the current comedy channel spoof "Reno 911".
It is also a slang term applied to groups or entities that demonstrate ineptness in their handling of their enterprises.
When the news broke a couple of years ago that 18 Muslim men and teenagers had been arrested under Canada's post 9/11 terrorist laws for plotting to blow up public buildings and behead the Prime Minister, I had an uneasy feeling from the statements made at the police press conference that the 18 were not really terrorists, but some Islamic version of the Keystone Kops. Yesterday, the 7th member of this group was released without prosecution, after spending 17 months in custody. This guy had been virtually identified as the ringleader at the time of his arrest.
It is now beginning to look like our security and police services are the Keystone Kops in this affair.
This is the second black eye for our public guardians. The previous big profile detention for suspicious terrorist activity involved 19 Pakistani students who were taking flying lessons, some of which took them over the nearby nuclear plant. They were eventually deported for immigration irregularities that became evident after their arrest, but nothing more insidious turned up.
If prosecutors cannot secure convictions in this case then it is high time we had a public enquiry into our public safety and security; something the lawyers for the defendents are calling for as well. This police drama that starts off with a bang and ends with a whimper only discredits the authorities in the mind of the public and may lessen alertness in an age of peril. The public needs to be confident that the best people are on the job.