The killing of young Sammy Yatim with 9 police bullets followed by a Taser, is the latest in at least 20 police killings in Toronto where the first and only response was shoot to kill.
Numerous coroners’ inquests since 1994 have unanimously recommended that police be trained in, and apply de-escalation in situations such as the confrontation with Sammy Yatim on July 27th.
This could be done at the Ontario Police College, operated by the Ontario government.
But police services and governments at all levels have ignored these inquest recommendations, and as a result 20 people have died – many of them young, most suffering from mental health issues, a majority from racialized communities.
Now that the Ontario Ombudsman has announced a systemic investigation into the direction provided to police by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services for de-escalating conflict, police have reacted with open hostility, and in at least one case, threats. A Durham police officer was caught comparing the Ombudsman to Al-Qaeda on twitter, while Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack (son of a former Toronto Police Chief) has led the way with public attacks on both the Ombudsman and the Ontario Federation of Labour which supports the investigation.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair meantime has tried to by-pass both the Toronto Police Service Board – a civilian agency, and the Provincial Ombudsman’s investigation, by proposing retired Justice Dennis O’Connor to review use of force practices in the Toronto Police Service. But the Police Chief has no authority to jump over the civilian board, or the Ombudsman, and surely no authority to pick his own investigator.
All of this begs the question: Are police above the law? Who are police accountable to? And who should hold them to account?
July also marked the 3rd anniversary of the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, with the arrest, detention, kettling and ‘caging’ of 1,100 demonstrators at the G20 protests in Toronto, during 3 days of martial law in the city.
The common thread is that police appear to be above the law – or outside of it; while the provincial government stands by, willfully oblivious. This is a threat to our civil and democratic rights, and to the well-being of each and all of us.
The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) extends its sympathy to the family of Sammy Yatim, whose young life was tragically cut so short by lethal police action, and government inaction.
We call on all those concerned about police killings and violence to demand that governments and civilian boards must hold police accountable, individually and collectively, for their actions; and must regulate police services to uniformly and consistently de-escalate conflict situations
We demand the Toronto Police Services Board:
- hold police to account for the killing of Sammy Yatim by demanding that Constable James Forcillo be charged in his death
- demand implementation of the recommendations of the “Saving Lives: Alternatives to the Use of Lethal Force by Police” report published in 2000 by the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, which Toronto Police Services declared it would implement more than 10 years ago.
- oppose Chief Blair’s attempt to by-pass the Toronto Police Services Board by appointing a retired judge to review police practices in Toronto
We further demand the Provincial Government:
- introduce a consistent and standardized set of regulations governing police forces across the province, to de-escalate conflict situations using the recommendations of the “Saving Lives: Alternatives to the Use of Lethal Force by Police” Report
- enact legislation to put police under public civilian control in every Ontario jurisdiction, and provide these bodies with the teeth to enforce real civilian controls in Ontario
Communist Party of Canada (Ontario)