Standard Operating Procedure

July 28, 2013

I have to confess to a naïve, privileged, white, middle-class, male rose-coloured view about our police. Despite personal albeit second-hand evidence to the contrary, my default opinion is to think of the police forces in this country and in this city as ones filled with honourable individuals, dedicated to upholding the law in the most peaceable manner possible. Sure, there are some bad apples, as is the case in any organization employing thousands of people but the institution itself, while not beyond reproach, remains trustworthy and respectable.

This does not square at all with that.

Now, I get that we do not have the full context. The video only serves as a brief glimpse of the entire incident. It’s impossible to hear exactly what was being said, what the shooting victim actually did (or didn’t do) to provoke such a response. We cannot rush to judgement.

That said, this looks bad. Very, very bad.

What we do know is that the shooting victim was armed with a knife although apparently not murderously competent (or inclined) enough to do any physical harm to the passengers and driver of the streetcar who all escaped. There were a large number of police officers on the scene, at least 5 or 6 at the beginning of the video, growing to double digits by the end. Nine shots were fired, not in quick succession but in groups. After which, it sounds as if a taser is being used.

On the face of it, it seems like excessive force, a quick over-reaction to a situation where no imminent danger to any of the officers could be seen. On the face of it. Obviously, more details need to be known, a thorough investigation necessary.

Yeah, I’m still willing to believe that can happen.

But if what we see on the video is essentially what happened, that someone armed with a knife alone on that streetcar, having not yet inflicted any injury on anyone else, surrounded by many police officers, all armed with guns, making some sort of threatening gesture or simply not complying with orders from the police, is shot to death without any other sort of situational de-escalation tactic first employed, we need to have a much deeper conversation about policing in this city. There’s every reason to expect the police officer who did the shooting will be cleared, deemed to have been following standard operating procedure. It’s happened before, almost eerily déjà vu-like. Reyal Jardine-Douglas and Edmond Yu.

The use of lethal force has to be the last resort not the first one. That needs to be standard operating procedure. If it isn’t, let’s start demanding a change.

submitted by Cityslikr