Happy New Year and welcome to the first column of 2015!
This week’s topic: Does law enforcement rely too heavily on the use of deadly force?
Peter de Groot. Du Na Phuong. Naverone Woods. These three men were killed during police interactions during the last months of 2014. In each encounter, officers drew their guns and fired, and in each case criticisms and questions remain if lethal force was necessary.
The concerns relating to the use of lethal force by law enforcement are not unique to B.C., but are multi-jurisdictional across Canada and the U.S. In fairness, in Canada the vast majority of police interactions end peacefully. This is little consolation to the families and friends of people who have been killed by officers. They are people who, in some cases, exhibited signs of mental distress or erratic behaviour. Robert Dziekanski, Ian Bush and Greg Matters are just a few high-profile cases you may remember.
Knowing several current and former members of different law enforcement agencies – most who have never used their guns in all their years of service – shooting or killing someone is not something any officer envisions happening. This doesn’t and shouldn’t preclude examination when use of deadly force results in a fatality.
Preventing any death at the hands of an officer, in particular when dealing with people in mental distress, is something the Toronto Police took action on following the shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim on a streetcar in 2013. One officer was charged with second-degree murder, and the police chief called for an independent review of the use of lethal force by officers. In July 2014, former Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci released what has been referred to as a landmark report, presenting page upon page of recommendations to prevent the shooting of people in crisis.
Read Brent Stafford’s column here.
This report makes it clear that this is not only an issue of police culture and training – it is a failure of our entire system…
READ the rest of this weeks column, comment and vote here: http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/01/04/duel-cops-too-eager-to-shoot
***You can read both the Executive Summary and the entire Independent Review of the Toronto Police Service here: http://www.tpsreview.ca/ for a full look at 80 recommendations made to improve outcomes. A very compelling read.