Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Forcillo Verdict Spells End for Police Impunity in Cases Where People in Crisis Are Harmed

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Forcillo Verdict Spells End for Police Impunity in Cases Where People in Crisis Are Harmed

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Forcillo verdict spells end for police impunity in cases where people in crisis are harmed

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published Jan. 25:

To hear the head of the Toronto police union tell it, rank-and-file officers are "shocked and dismayed" at the guilty verdict handed down by a jury on Const. James Forcillo for attempted murder in the death of Sammy Yatim. The verdict sends a "chilling message" through the ranks, says union chief Mike McCormack.

It shouldn't. While Forcillo's lawyer Peter Brauti complained about "trial by YouTube," the jurors appear to have given Forcillo every benefit of the doubt. They cleared him of the more serious charge of second-degree murder for fatally shooting Yatim on an empty, stopped streetcar in 2013. In effect, they accepted Forcillo's claim that he was acting in self-defence, at least initially, when he shot Yatim three times -- including the fatal shot -- as the 18-year-old brandished a switchblade.

What the jury seemingly couldn't stomach, and understandably so, was Forcillo's followup decision to fire six more rounds at Yatim as he lay struggling and dying on the streetcar floor, hitting him five more times. That did not look like the use of lethal force as a last resort, to protect an officer's life. By that point Yatim posed no threat. Because those shots were not the fatal ones, the charge was attempted murder.

The scene, captured on audio and video from multiple angles, showed Yatim being shot less than a minute after police arrived. It shocked the city and shook its faith in the quality of training police receive in dealing with disturbed, armed and potentially violent people. Hundreds took to the streets in protest.

Now the courts have sent a historic and welcome message that there are consequences to the misuse of police power.

As Yatim's grieving mother Sahar Bahadi said, "police training policies" must change, in dealing with people in crisis if the force is to remain "a source of confidence, security and respect."

This verdict comes at a time when concern is building in Canada and across North America about police use of lethal force. Cases of officers being charged with murder or manslaughter, much less convicted, are rare in Ontario. …

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