Friday, March 18, 2016

Saying Goodbye To Alex For Up To One Year


Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was a teacher for so many years; maybe it is because I have been a parent for even longer. But the fact is, I cannot get the killing of Alex Wettlaufer out of my mind. Unfortunately, however, although I will be thinking of him, I doubt that I will writing anything more about him for up to as much as one year. That is how long we may have to wait for the results of the SIU 'investigation' into his death at the hands of the Toronto police.

As reported in yesterday's Star, the only paper, by the way, that seems to be showing continued interest, the deeply flawed Ontario Police Services Act says
officers “shall not, during the course of an investigation by the SIU into an incident, disclose to any person any information with respect to the incident or the investigation.”

The regulation is intended to ensure the integrity of the independent investigation, but some critics say it creates a situation where the public is left in the dark about a high-profile issue, often for months at a time.
This means, according to the SIU, that
it cannot reveal whether Wettlaufer was armed because the investigation is ongoing. The vital piece of information may not be provided until the probe is completed, a process that typically takes several months, or up to a year.
In other words, there will be no information forthcoming on anything that will either confirm or refute growing public suspicion that another Sammy Yatim tragedy has occurred, nothing to suggest that people needn't be increasingly fearful of a force that is sworn to protect and serve them.

The Wettlaufer family, which hotly contests the suggestion that Alex was armed, is not willing to wait for this drawn-out and inexcusably long process to play out.
They are now hoping to find a lawyer to help obtain any surveillance video that may have captured parts of the incident, Timothy [Wettlaufer] said. They want to obtain as much information as possible that could help explain how his “soft-hearted” brother wound up fatally shot by police.

The family is hopeful TTC cameras may have captured some of the initial altercation, which began near Leslie station. However, Timothy said he is concerned there may be little independent evidence — such as witness accounts or video evidence — from the dark ravine where the shooting occurred.
From the broader community, there have been calls for much-need reform to the act that is preventing the release of any information:
Darryl Davies, a criminology instructor at Carleton University, said the province should consider changing the Police Act, currently under review by the ministry of community safety. Davies says there is far more information about fatal shootings when they don’t involve police, and that’s not they way it should be.

“There is no justification for treating the cases differently. In fact one could argue that because the shooting is by a person employed, trained and paid by a government entity that there should in fact be more transparency and not less,” Davies said.
Even some police are frustrated by the constraints of the act:
Mark Valois, a former Toronto Police officer and retired use-of-force training officer, said the legal gag-order ... can be “very frustrating.”

“Absolutely there’s times when things happen, and things are hitting the news, there’s rumours and you might read something and say, ‘that’s not what happened, but I can’t say anything,’ ” he said.
Secrecy inevitably invites suspicions of coverups, sanitization of facts, the illegal fabrication of police notes and the development of 'plausible deniability.'

So goodbye for now, Alex. You may be tragically gone, but you are not forgotten.

ONE FINAL NOTE: The gofundme campaign to raise funds for Alex's funeral is ongoing. So far 29 people have contributed just under $1700. Should you care to lend a helping hand to the family at this very difficult time, please click here.

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