Monday, July 29, 2013

Murder By Police?

Rarely at a loss for words, I find myself in that state as I think about Sammy Yatim, the 18-year-old killed just after midnight Saturday night aboard a TTC streetccar. As the video posted last evening shows, police, under no apparent threat, opened fire on the teen a few seconds after they ordered him to drop his three-inch bladed knife.

The usual words and phrases, such as outrage, out-of-control police, unnecessary police violence seem wholly inadequate as expressions of digust over what has transpired. I therefore leave the job to the professionals, in this case The Star's Rosie DiManno, who offers her assessment here.


  1. I said that on Mound's post and I will repeat, we live under a police state thanks to King Harper. The is the very essence of a police state.

    1. I can't argue with your assessment, LeDaro. And the predictable ensuing silence from the police will definitely fortify that unpleasant perception.

  2. It sounds like Toronto PD Chief Blair knows the cops are up to their chins in shit on this one, Lorne. He seems to be having one of those WTF? moments. I've always suspected the procedure when these videos emerge is for cops to look at them and then ask, "okay, how can we spin this to justify what everyone saw?"

    The execution of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver Airport taught them not to get caught up in quick denials. The less said, the better. Then again, every successful criminal knows that.

    1. That is so true, Mound. I just watched the Chief's news conference, and outside of platitudes, all he really said was that the law prevents him from talking about the case. He has promised a full investigation, which likely will be as effective and as deep as the typical SIU probes, which accomplish nothing except to stir further public outrage.

  3. I wonder what it says for our society, Lorne, when so many of us have become so distrustful of our police services as we have over the past ten to twenty years? It doesn't take many bad apples to undermine public confidence.

    Here's a fairly common scenario that has always troubled me and, I think, goes to the heart of the problem within our police forces.

    How many times have you watched a video where an officer either resorts to brutality or lethal force while other cops just stand by and watch? That happened in this case and it occurs a lot.

    What of their duty to protect that kid on the bus? Why was that officer allowed to keep firing after his first, 3-round salvo even while he was surrounded by other officers? Even if they chose not to arrest the shooter, why did they not at least restrain them?

    To change this dynamic, we need to begin holding those bystander cops accountable not only for their actions but for their omissions, their failure to act. One armed officer can get carried away in the heat of the moment but those officers are operating collectively and surely they have a responsibility among themselves, to each other, to their force and to the public, to intervene. It's not right that they should just get to walk away as though nothing had happened.

    If you and I went out with a career criminal, Lorne, to rob a convenience store and our third party surprised us by pulling out a gun we didn't know he had and shot up the place including the cashier and customers, we're as liable for his murderous acts as he is. It's not the same situation but somewhat analogous that these bystander cops should be liable for wrongdoing by a fellow officer in their midst.

    1. For far too long, Mound, the so-called brotherhood of the blue has been allowed to prevail and intimidate. One often hears, for example, that when a fellow-officer is being tried or sentenced, the courtroom is filled with uniforms, not just as a measure of solidarity but, I believe, to try to influence the judge.

      When a police officer tries to do the right thing by informing on a brother or sister officer, he/she faces the kind of ostracism and branding that drive many from the force.

      I noted today that the Chief identified one 'subject' officer and 22 'witness' officers in the killing of Sammy Yattim. We can only hope that those officers don't all get together to ensure that their 'notes' are all on the same page. Surely there must be a few of them who have the courage and integrity to do the right thing here.

      And let's hope that none of them invokes their right not to talk to the SIU, a right whose existence bewilders me.

      Perhaps your suggestion of group liability is the only way to ensure accountability. At the very least it would, without doubt, break the wall of silence that is mislabeled as loyalty instead of the cowardice it really is.

  4. .. Let's see how it all filters down .. because that's how this will play out ..

    Perhaps a few facts will drop.. like manna from heaven .. maybe not..
    The citizen videos are pretty explicit ..

    Was the kid that was killed an angel ? An angel on dust ? Or just plain stupid stoned n fried .. Hmm .. he had a knife.. and put it in his pocket when he left home on the last day of his life.

    Was the cop that shot him a loose cannon ? We really don't know.. Did the kid have a grenade in his hand as well? Or a biblical script ? Was the shooter a cop with a crispy edge?

    The whole thing is a cluster f'k .. and I doubt that cop will ever carry a gun again, in the name of or employ of Law and Order. I'm equally certain that kid will never walk this earth again .. End Of Story... The 18 year old is dead .. the cop is f'd .. Which would you rather be ?

    To another indy journalist blog I asked this question .. When the last 6 shots were fired.. 40 calibre perhaps, how was the perp presenting? Feet first ? Head first ? Crumpled in a ball and twitching ?

    When they tazered him (oh .. sorry .. when a conducted energy weapon was deployed & interacted with him) was he still waving the knife or screaming 'pussy' at the 15 or so cops ? (Who tazers a vic that had 9 shots directed his way? Even if 8 of them missed?) One, center mass gets er done..

    Looking for sense or sensibility in a cluster f'k is akin to expecting a Hollywood helicopter rescue during a tsunami.. or after startling a polar bear at he town dump at dinner time..

    If you want to mess with John Law .. don't expect good things to happen.. There's a whole lot of blame to spread around here .. and I caution about getting too sanctimonious .. There's a good chance one half of a collision was looking for the other half of a collision .. and met it ..

    For ever n ever .. Amen .. RIP kid ..

    1. I agree we shouldn't be too sanctimonious here, Salamander, but it is difficult not to be judgmental, given the video evidence that hardly suggests what the Americans like to call 'exigent circumstances.' The police have stated that the TTC video surveillance footage (all streetcars now carry cameras) will not be released. When the dust finally settles, it is one of the first things that a very concerned and outraged public has a right to. To withhold it will only confirm our worst suspicions.