A letter to Toronto Police about the shooting of Sammy Yatim

My wife wrote this letter to TPS Chief Bill Blair tonight and has given me permission to post it here. I agree with everything in it.

Dear Police Chief Bill Blair and all the members of the Toronto police force,

I have a 6 year old son who, like most young boys, is fascinated with police officers. I want to teach him to respect and cooperate with the police, to teach him that the police are there to help us if we are in trouble, to teach him that the police are not to be feared. However, after the documented police behavior at the g20 summit in Toronto and most recently with the shooting of Sammy Yatim, I am having increasing difficulty teaching my son such things.

Now I wasn’t there on Friday nor do I know what it feels like to be a police officer and be potentially faced with danger everyday. However, there are a number of questions that come to mind that hopefully the SIU will highlight. But I’m also hoping Chief Blair that you take some leadership on some of these issues.

Based on the video evidence shown to date, there a number of questions that are obvious. Why were there so many police officers who seemed unable to work together to de-escalate the situation? One officer does appear to try to talk to him but then the others start yelling at him to drop the knife. Why were so many police officers yelling at him? They appeared to be trying to intimidate him with force and numbers – would this not have served to further escalate the situation? Why were all the police officers concentrated only at one door of the street car while the back door lay open? Why was there not an attempt to calmly talk the person down instead of angrily escalating the situation? Why were 9 shots fired at him? Why were so many shots fired at him after he had fallen? How could he possibly still pose a danger at that point? Why was he tasered after being shot? Again, how could he possibly still have posed a danger at that point? Is there a culture of violence that has been developed in the police? Is there an increasing militarization of the police force? Was this officer young and inexperienced? Does additional training need to be provided to officers? How much de-escalation training is provided to police? Is there a requirement to try de-escalation techniques first?

I would really like to know what positive and proactive steps are going to be taken to increase the skills of the police officers and change some of the culture of the police force. Force, both deadly and non, should not be so freely used.

I want to be able to see a police officer on the street and feel confident that they are there to protect me and other members of society. I don’t want to feel the fear that I now feel when I see a police officer, worried in case they feel the need to exert their power. I also want to be able to teach my 6 year old son and my 7 month old son that police officers can be our friend, are there to help us, and that we should respect them and help whenever possible.

Sincerely, a concerned citizen and parent.

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Communications in social services/social change, immigration, diversity & inclusion in Toronto. Wannabe librarian, interested in nonprofit tech innovation.

Communications in social services/social change, immigration, diversity & inclusion in Toronto. Wannabe librarian, interested in nonprofit tech innovation.

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