Article: Michael Chmielewski – Interim Editor-in-Chief
The silence shatters as three shots ring out in the Toronto night. Six more seconds of silence, and then six more shots.
Sammy Yatim’s 18-year-old bloodied body now lies dead, surrounded by valorous officers of the law. The merciless murder, of course, has sparked outrage and disbelief. Although the teen was armed with a knife after having apparently forced riders of a train car to depart, he was a relatively minor threat. The video begs many questions: was he violent towards the police? Could he have done anything else? Could the police have done anything differently? Of course they could have. This shooting is a quintessential example of over-excessive force.
Although it’s easy to say, “fuck the police,” and be done with it, this case does not form the outline for all police in Canada, merely one trigger-happy fool, one Const. James Forcillo, now suspended with pay. Not without, but with pay.
Overall, the police in Canada are a force for good, yet there are many other sketchy cases: Robert Dziekanski, and the lack of justice he has received after being tasered to death, or the Human Rights Watch’s report on the heinous activity of RCMP officers in British Columbia, and others.
This tragedy, and others like it, points to a larger problem with police forces. Canada itself has not had as severe problems with its police forces as other countries, yet there is much room for improvement. The main room for improvement has to be in the judgment of police officers. Thousands of times a year, brave police officers protect this country and its citizenry by making calm and cool decisions in the face of danger. Yet, one mistake like this is one too many. Dziekanski could have easily been saved. The details of his case are mind numbing: why couldn’t they have found somebody to speak Polish to him, why did they have to agitate the man to the point of having to be tasered? Also, once tasered, why did he have to be tasered multiple times? He was obviously out of shape, and his body could not withstand such shock to its system. The judgment, or lack thereof, of the four police officers involved in Dziekanski’s homicide is criminal.
For Yatim, death was completely avoidable also. Nobody knows yet what drove
Yatim to be standing alone on a train car with a knife in his hand, but he was only 18. He had a whole life ahead of him. Think of everything you have done since you turned 18. For me, life has gotten so much better since I got out of high school. Some of the best experiences of my life have happened in the last two years, and I look forward to many more. Poor, fallen, Sammy won’t enjoy the same luxury.
In a CBC interview, Ross Mclean, a security expert and former police officer, raises serious concerns about the handling of Yatim’s case. One astounding thing he points out is that Yatim was tasered after being shot roughly nine times. He also aptly points out, why couldn’t the cops have waited for the taser and left Yatim alive? Yatim, unlike Dziekanski, was in shape enough to withstand the taser. Anything would have been better than 9 shots. We may never know what compelled Yatim to commit these actions.
Of any of the multiplicity of reasons, none of them justify his death.