Standard Operating Procedure

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

6 Responses to Standard Operating Procedure

  1. Sonny says:

    The officer used too many bullets and tazing the guy afterwards is like american style… The teenager had a 3 inch knife and allowed the people to vacate the streetcar which means he was in distress!
    There is a vigil/march today at 6:30pm around Dundas & Bellwoods.

  2. Alice says:

    The police have no idea how to de-escalate a situation which obviously involves someone in psychological distress and yet people who work in health care and education do it all the time.
    Arming someone with knee jerk reactions to any kind unusual, agitated, behaviour is a recipe for disaster and in this case, a tragic, unnecessary, loss of life. This has to stop.

  3. Pat says:

    Both sides – the guy AND the police – have faults of their own. But you can’t deny that more weight goes to the guy because his actions and carrying and revealing a knife in public, as well as disrupting a part of public sphere such as public transit with a knife, is the root of the entire case and outcome. That’s not a normal act.

    • Sonny says:

      OK so there is a sit in on Dundas W, shouting and apparently the cop who shot Sammy is on suspension with pay?! When hitting a lever to close the streetcar door would not have been so deadly.

    • Stevedore says:

      Wow. Such a dense conglomeration of platitudes and casual cruelties.

      1) There are no “both sides” here. The police are not supposed to be on their own “side”, they’re supposed to protect the public, which included Sammy Yatim.

      2) I can and I will “deny that more weight goes to the guy.” You’re right that pulling a knife/exposing yourself on a streetcar are “not normal” — they’re deeply irrational acts, the kind you commit when you’re not in touch with ordinary people’s reality. But people whose minds aren’t functioning “normally” — because of drugs or illness or age — are part of our society and part of the public that the police are supposed to protect. I’m getting seriously tired of this subtext that it’s understandable and OK for police to kill anyone who acts “crazy” in public.

      Maybe we’ll find out later that there was an immediate threat to the police officers, or that it was really impossible for them to disarm Sammy Yatim without shooting him in the chest. At present I really doubt that, and so I say more blame goes to the person who killed someone than the person who got killed.

  4. Simon Says says:

    Scenario actualization is what probably led to this unfortunate event.

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