Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Sammy Yatim killing -- Consequences for police violence are what is "necessary for public confidence in the administration of justice"

When we look at the case of James Forcillo it is very difficult to not come to the conclusion that it could only have unfolded as it has because he is a police officer.

After the Toronto officer was found guilty by a jury of the "attempted murder" of Toronto teen Sammy Yatim who he had shot to death -- leaving many, myself included, still wondering if you can possibly conceive of anyone other than a cop being found guilty of that charge when the victim in the case was dead -- he was sentenced to six years in jail.

Yet he has been out on bail for all but one night since the conviction while awaiting an appeal. Despite the shocking brutality of the crime that was deemed "egregious" by a judge.

He was convicted last July, released on bail the next day, has had the bail extended already, just had it extended by the judge again yesterday and won't be back in court until October. And Forcillo will spend none of this time serving his sentence in a correctional facility of any kind!

In the Toronto Star we learn that Justice Eileen Gillese "ruled Forcillo’s incarceration pending appeal was not necessary for public confidence in the administration of justice" and that:
“Despite the seriousness of the offence for which the Appellant stands convicted,” she wrote, “in my view, fully informed members of the community will objectively understand and accept that it is not contrary to the public interest that he be released.”
I disagree.

Time and time and time again police officers in Toronto, Ontario and Canada have acted with violent impunity with little or no consequence for their actions no matter how egregious. For a police officer to even face internal departmental discipline of any seriousness is rare, let alone facing the kind of criminal charges that any other person would face for many of these acts.

Even when mass police abuse, violence and violation of civil rights occurs right in front of the media of both the country and the world, as happened during the G20 police riot in Toronto in 2012, the fallout was virtually non-existent with only one officer ever convicted of assault (and getting no jail time) and one senior officer getting a slap on the wrist for trampling on people's rights during a mass "kettling".

It is absolutely "necessary for public confidence in the administration of justice" for the public to believe that police officers are not above the law and that they are not treated totally differently by the courts, because right now that is certainly not how it seems!

In case after case we have seen just how far the system will go to ensure that police officers do not face the kind of justice anyone else would for criminal acts of violence or abuse.

As the Toronto Star noted of Forcillo's actions last year:
Nine bullets [were] fired from Const. James Forcillo’s gun, eight striking Yatim. The last six of those bullets — fired after a five-second pause, as Yatim lay paralyzed and dying from the first volley of shots — determined by a jury to be attempted murder, and called “egregious” by an Ontario judge in a scathing sentencing decision
Six shots fired into a teenager who lay paralyzed and helpless on the floor of a streetcar after already having been shot twice by Forcillo who was not even on the streetcar when he fired and despite Yatim not even having a gun!  With video clearly showing Forcillo starting to fire even though Yatim was still on the streetcar (which was empty of passengers) neither a second-degree murder nor a manslaughter conviction could be obtained.

When Forcillo was first granted bail after a single night in jail Yatim's father said “He gets to go home. My son sleeps in an urn.”

With a violent act of such singular criminal brutality that finally resulted in the conviction of an officer-- regardless of whether the "attempted murder" conviction represented real justice -- it was time for the justice system to not just send a clear message to the police that the days of impunity are ending, but also one as well that justice will be done for people, families and communities that have suffered so terribly due to the acts of violent police officers.

And yet again, to date, it has not.

See also: It is not just the police spending in Toronto that is out of control -- it is the police themselves

See also: Beware the echoes of Toronto's 'Year of the Gun'

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