We don’t trust the people who are sworn to serve and protect us.
Police have been dealing with public relations disasters for decades. And the basis for the deteriorated relationship between the public and the police is a lack of trust.
Our youth are becoming victims of that rift.
Even without N.W.A.’s iconic 1988 song about law enforcement, young people would still be nervous about any form of interactions with cops.
A Toronto police officer charged with second degree murder for shooting 18-year-old Sammy Yatim is not rebuilding that trust.
An arrangement was made for Constable James Forcillo to turn himself in on Tuesday in relation to the shooting death of Yatim at about midnight on July 27.
Yatim was holding a knife on an empty streetcar.
Eyewitness video of the scene indicated three shots were initially fired, followed by six more.
Yatim was then tasered.
Though there were about a dozen police officers surrounding the streetcar, Forcillo was the only one investigated by Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit.
There are many ways to speculate how Yatim’s life could have been spared.
I believe in our court system to find and deliver justice.
Whatever the verdict, it won’t change that an 18-year-old is dead. It won’t bring him back to his family.
Before the charges were laid against Forcillo, Judge Doug Kovatch addressed (very profoundly) the shooting during the swearing-in of Moose Jaw’s two newest officers.
Kovatch reserved judgment but said that no matter the judicial outcome, damage was done to the public’s perception of police officers everywhere when Forcillo shot Yatim.
Kovatch told a story about a police chief who was on a reserve and going to meet with the band and council.
Before the meeting, the police chief saw some kids playing on the street. He asked the kids what they thought of police.
The kids said they didn’t like police because cops were only around when something bad happened or when something bad was about to happen.
That resonated with the police chief, and with Kovatch too. I nodded along as I heard him say it.
Being afraid or distrustful of police doesn’t necessarily mean that you have something to hide. It’s a reflection of a continuing badly fractured relationship.
As a teenager, I said I hated police.
What I meant was: I was nervous about police.
I had no reason to be. I grew up in a safe neighbourhood and I’m the very last person on any list of potential racial profiling victims.
I have never been struck by a police officer – but I felt bullied or disrespected a few times.
My teenaged attitude kept me from showing any respect and so I was treated like a punk.
It’s tough for me to blame the officers.
My rebellious perspective was slowly changed by the Regina Police Service’s use of Twitter to engage with civilians. Communication is the foundation of trust.
My view of police officers has further evolved as I continue to work in close proximity to the Moose Jaw Police Service (MJPS).
Every member of the MJPS that I have dealt with has been professional and courteous.
Even though police officers get special privileges, carry weapons and enforce laws, they are still human beings.
Like in any profession, there are good examples and bad examples.
A bad example casts shadows over all the good examples. One bad example can rupture any existing trust. Then it’s back to square one.
Wherever you are, you must believe that police officers are benefiting our communities.
I would never recommend believing something without seeing the proof.
Austin M. Davis can be reached at 306 691-1258 or follow him on Twitter @theaustinx.