Were I so inclined, I could probably devote this blog solely to police misconduct, so extensive does it seem. Perhaps it is due to the Forcillo conviction for the attempted murder of the late Sammy Yatim that we are more sensitive to the issue, but each day seems to bring new information about police behaving badly. A crisis of public confidence is not too strong a phrase to describe the public's growing distrust of those sworn to protect and serve.
And to make matters worse, as I observed in a post earlier this week, the police, or at least their unions, are reacting with outrage rather than humility at these charges and convictions, a fact that does not bode well for changing the culture and profile of our protectors.
In its letters section today, The Toronto Star features an entire page of public reactions to the Forcillo conviction. Each letter is worth reading, but I reproduce just a few below to offer you a sampling of sentiments:
.... Police spokespeople have publicly worried that the verdict will “send a chill through the force.” But if a chill is what it takes to soothe the itchy trigger fingers of cops like Forcillo, then it’s exactly what we need. These men and women are given public permission to patrol our streets armed with increasingly deadly force. It’s time they understood that public scrutiny is part of that privilege – scrutiny that will become a bit uncomfortable now and then. Or are we supposed to look the other way when a citizen is killed?
As your editorial notes, the verdict will be small comfort to the Yatim family, but at least it’s something. And the Star deserves credit for its excellent series on police abuse and accountability in the GTA, “Breaking badge.” I believe that it has helped to shift our outdated attitudes towards the police.
Andrew van Velzen, Toronto
The TPS police union boss, Mike McCormack said he is “disappointed with the guilty finding and it sends a chilling message to other cops.” I agree. Indeed, disappointing the original charge was reduced and chilling that the blue wall choose to close ranks to protect a criminal in their midst rather than “serve and protect” the public.
Time for handlers at the senior police levels and politicians to take note. No more impunity for bad cops who have previously executed the emotionally or mentally upset among us. Rather than deescalating the situation. A overdue message to any cop who may wish to play fast and loose with civilian lives. Now consequences attached.
This is the first time in Ontario history a out of line cop actually has been convicted. Now the question is, will his legal weasels continue to attempt to subvert justice by their gyrations allowing this soon to be ex-thug in blue to escape?
Paul Coulter, Kincardine
Forcillo’s lawyer spoke of “trial by YouTube.” How about “trial by seeing is believing” or “trial by a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Let’s be clear here; no video, no conviction. All on-site police testifying in court would have backed and supported their brother’s need to use the excessive force repeatedly delivered on a dead or dying individual.
Tim Strevett, Hamilton
As in countless other trials, no one has emerged a winner here. Both Forcillo and Yatim’s family have lost.
I have to wonder, however, at the defence decrying the video shot that night, and suggesting it precluded a fair trial. When the police install cameras in the city and seek greater powers to snoop, we are told, if you are not doing anything wrong, you should not fear this surveillance. It seems, in this unhappy case, the police have learned they, too, are being watched and recorded.
Video evidence is virtually unrefutable; that’s why law enforcement wants it. Now, however, it seems the shoe is on the other foot.
G.P. Wowchuk, Toronto
...what should be most disturbing to the public is Mike McCormack’s reaction that the verdict is sending a “chilling message” to the police. The police still don’t get it. This reaction is itself sending a cold blooded warning to the public.
Torontonians have reason to beware the police when their spokesperson insists on their right to remain above the law.
Tony D’Andrea, Toronto