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The Police Can and Must Do Better to "Serve and Protect" the Residents of This Diverse City
TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Mar 24, 2016) - The Toronto & York Region Labour Council is adding its voice to the call by Black Lives Matter Toronto to address recent incidents of fatality involving Persons of Colour in the City of Toronto.
There is no doubt that justice was served in the shooting of Sammy Yatim primarily because of video evidence that clearly showed the disproportionally brutal response from the officer in question. But recent tragedies were not recorded in the same way. Given that the City of Toronto is home to people of diverse realities, many of whom have experienced extreme trauma, the Toronto Police Services should be conversant, equipped and capable of de-escalating incidences of crisis without continually resorting to lethal response.
These events have rekindled painful memories of similar killings across Toronto that often involved racialized men, some of whom faced mental-health issues. Labour and community groups have spoken out on the need for accountability in these deaths since Albert Johnson in 1979. In June 2000, the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, in collaboration with the then Queen Street Patients Council, organized a conference called Saving Lives: Alternatives to the Use of Lethal Force by Police at the Law Society of Upper Canada.
The use of non-lethal technology and "mobile crisis teams"; supports for people facing mental-health issues; the role of race in police shootings; barriers to change, community policing, transparency and accountability were all identified in the final report. These were, in fact, acknowledged in subsequent Ontario policing standards. Implementation, though, has been a problem.
"The police can and must do better to "Serve and Protect" the residents of this diverse city," said John Cartwright, President of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council. "Those who are out demonstrating their frustration in the cold days and nights ought to have their questions and concerns addressed."
The Labour Council is disappointed by the lack of transparency shown by the Toronto Police Service in disclosing details pertaining to the case before them given that it transpired in a housing dedicated for individuals experiencing mental health challenges, making Andrew Loku an individual of extreme vulnerability and in need of support and effective crisis response management.
As such, the Labour Council calls upon the Toronto Police Services to undertake a full review of all fatal incidents in the City of Toronto involving Persons of Colour and requiring the involvement of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU).