G20 verdict is a clear signal to Toronto police
TheStar.com – opinion/editorials – Conviction of a Toronto police officer caught on video beating a G20 summit protester sends welcome message to police and the public.
Sep 14 2013. Editorial
The agonizingly slow quest for justice for the 1,100 protesters arrested, beaten and detained by police three years ago during the G20 summit in Torontohas finally produced a breakthrough.
Constable Babak Andalib-Goortani of the Toronto Police Service was found guilty of using excessive force this week. His victim, Adam Nobody, who was kicked, punched, kneed in the face and hit with a baton while pinned to the ground, hailed the verdict as vindication.
It was also vindication for the media, the bystanders, the civil libertarians and disgusted citizens who demanded that police be held responsible for their brazen bully tactics.
This week’s conviction would not have happened if the Star hadn’t dug up the evidence the police refused to provide; if a member of the public had not stepped forward with a video of the incident; if a tenacious team of lawyers had not pushed Nobody’s case through a thicket of procedural roadblocks; and if Torontonians had not sought accountability for the debacle on their streets.
A criminal conviction against one officer who happened to get caught on video is a small triumph. Many other officers who lashed out at protesters who were demonstrating peacefully will never be tried. Hundreds of Torontonians who were threatened,cornered, stripped of their belongings — including a prosthetic leg — and locked up will never get a hearing.
The public will probably never know who ordered the police to treat Canadian citizens like presumed terrorists. Torontonians will probably never find out where the buck stopped that fateful weekend — not at Police Chief Bill Blair’s desk, not at RCMP headquarters, although the national force was in charge of security, and not at the office of the prime minister, although Stephen Harper insisted on holding the summit in downtown Toronto against the advice of the mayor and city officials.
Nor is it likely that public trust in the Toronto Police Service will be restored by an externally imposed disciplinary action. From the chief on down, the force denied any wrongdoing, covered up evidence, rationalized the use of force on peaceful protesters and frustrated efforts to exercise civilian oversight.
Nonetheless, Andalib-Goortani’s conviction sends a clear message that police officers are not above the law. It sets a welcome precedent. And it provides an incentive to those still seeking answers to press ahead.
Judge Louise Botham was clear. “A police officer is not entitled to use unlimited force,” she said in her decision. “The resistance offered by Mr. Nobody was minimal.”
After the verdict, Blair assured Torontonians: “We have dedicated public servants in our organization, decent men and women who go out and do that job with courage and conviction.” That is no doubt true, but it does not address Thursday’s conviction of one of his officers, who like his peers had removed his name badge so he could be neither identified nor chastised.
The head of the police union, Mike McCormack, denounced the judge’s decision and vowed to appeal it. He went on to complain that the disciplinary process is taking a “ridiculous” amount of time. “This is a cloud over our officers’ heads,” he said.
It is indeed — one they brought upon themselves. They, like Nobody, will have wait as justice takes its painfully slow course.
< http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2013/09/14/g20_verdict_is_a_clear_signal_to_toronto_police_editorial.html >