Amber gets the Red

Image of Riya Rajkumar Riya Rajkumar (pictured left) became the subject of an Amber alert on February 14th when police were notified that her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, had failed to bring her home following birthday celebrations earlier that evening. Around midnight, within one hour of the Amber alert being issued, Roopesh Rajkumar was arrested about 130km north of Brampton where Ontario Provincial Police found him near Orillia driving north on Highway 11. At roughly the same time, officers discovered his daughter Riya's body in his basement apartment in Brampton.

Following Rajkumar's transfer from Provincial authorities to Peel Regional Police, officers noticed he was "not acting right" prompting them to summon paramedics. He was transported to Sunnybrook Hospital where, upon examination, doctors discovered he had suffered a gunshot wound. He was taken to a trauma centre for further treatment and remained in hospital under custodial supervision. Though Rajkumar would be charged with first degree murder, he would never set foot in a courtroom, dying in hospital on February 20th... the very same day his daughter was buried. I somehow can't imagine legions of mourners at his grave side.

Image of Tweet from Peel Regional Police The sheer senselessness of Riya Rajkumar's murder, ironically, was quickly overshadowed by media reports decrying the degree of public outrage over the Amber alert itself. Following a Tweet by the Peel Regional Police, indicating that 911 call centres had been inundated with calls complaining about the late hour of the Amber alert, media outlets were quick to demonize complainants, characterizing them as "petty" and "narrow-minded individuals", some questioning if they may have been "drunk... racist... or caught in an era of rage". A shitstorm soon erupted on social media as the socially conscious voiced their disgust at the malcontents who had complained about having received the alerts. (I saw little point weighing into the debate in any depth with morons over idiotic behaviour. It's a debate I would almost certainly lose since they have far more experience at stupidity than I have.) Suffice it to say, anyone who actually called 911 to complain about receiving the alert should have been charged. End of story.

I can say, without reservation however, that I was annoyed when the hi-low siren sound blared out of the LGQ6 phone sitting beside me on the desk while I was watching the late news. The timing of the alert is, in my view, completely irrelevant. The police issued the alert at the time which corresponded to the child's disappearance. In other words, children may go missing at any time of day and their disappearance is not, as some might find convenient, restricted to banking hours. And, rightly so, many phones throughout the province properly received the Rajkumar Amber alert.

Image of screenshot from LGQ6 phone But I'm not talking about the many phones throughout the province which received the warning... I'm talking about MY phone, an LGQ6, which had been programmed to ONLY receive "Extreme" and "Severe" weather warnings. The Rajkumar Amber alert should NOT have arrived on my phone. When my phone started barking, as it did last year when tornadoes hit Ottawa, I was left with an impending sense of peril thinking my safety was in jeopardy. I have chosen to opt out of receiving Amber alerts for a number of reasons, none of which are up for debate or discussion. (That is my choice and I would defend anyone's right to choose not only which alerts they want to receive, but also whether or not they want to receive any of them at all.) Yet, despite this, my phone was barking away, leaving me wondering whether a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, ICBM or the Space Station was falling out of the sky. Danger, I believed, was imminent. (Don't worry about asteroid strikes. If one of those suckers hits, we'll almost certainly become future fossil fuel.)

I'm not annoyed with the Peel District Police for issuing the Amber alert; the situation warranted it and they should be commended. I question whether or not it had any significant effect on the outcome, however, given that Rajkumar's objective seems to have been murder-suicide, an objective he seems to have accomplished. When the alert arrived on my phone, I read it, silenced it, and immediately checked my phone settings precisely because I should not have received it at all. I discovered that for some reason, my phone's alert settings had somehow been reset to the default "receive all" alert setting. (The default setting includes Amber alerts.) This, in my view, could have only happened in one of two ways:
Either the Alert application itself was updated, causing the alert settings to be reset to the default;
Or the default settings were reset globally when my phone was updated from Android 7.2 to Android 8.

In either event, I received the Amber alert because of what I consider poor programming and THAT is what annoyed me. I did not call 911 to complain. My only comment on social media was to suggest that individuals should examine their phone settings to consider which, if any, alerts they wished to receive and that if that task were too complicated for them there was an "off switch" on the side of the phone that could always be relied upon. (Actually I said a little bit more: I suggested that the people who complained the most were likely the same people who didn't have a very good grasp of technology so we'd likely also hear them complaining about being the victims of identity theft because they installed a flashlight on their phone which required access to their contact list.)

So now my phone's alert settings have been set for the second time. In the future, if I receive an Amber alert of any kind, I will be annoyed but I won't complain. I'll merely root the device and remove the Alerts app completely so I take back the control which seems to have been relinquished. It's just that simple.

Submitted by Jeff Dubois, 22 February 2019