By Lorne Warwick
Published August 08, 2011
Most people by now are well-familiar with the botched raid by the Hamilton Police that resulted in serious injury to Burmese immigrant Po La Hay, who wound up with facial lacerations, three broken ribs and a fractured vertebra.
While the court has dismissed the case against the officer in question, Ryan Tocher, citing insufficient evidence of the use of excessive force, the judge, Justice Paul Currie, had excoriating words for Tocher's fellow officers, none of whom could put a face to the leg and foot stomping /kicking Mr. Hay:
Currie suggested the conduct of four police witnesses in the case "raises the spectre of a coverup."
Currie was particularly concerned that neither Sergeant Paul Henderson, the raid supervisor, nor Detective Constables Chris Camalleri, Christopher Button or Angela Weston - all of whom where in the kitchen with Hay and the accused - could positively identify Tocher as the officer who stomped Hay.
"I find the collective evidence of the witness officers to be troubling. Their inconsistencies in their version of the evidence and their apparent inability or unwillingness to identify the person attached to the leg, as most were easily serving in close proximity to the person who was attached to it, strains credulity and raises the spectre of a coverup," Currie said in his ruling.
This troubling trend toward concealment seems to have had its birth during last year's massive violation of Charter Rights during the G20, when police arbitrarily abused, assaulted, and arrested over 1,100 people. Despite investigations, the force, due to a strange collective memory loss, was unable to identify the perpetrators of these abuses, with the exception of one officer.
That penchant for secrecy and concealment continues to this day. For example, after the recent Caribbean Carnival Parade shooting, it took three days for the SIU to release the name of a man who was shot and killed, the Unit stating only that:
officers had "discharged their weapons" in the incident, with spokesman Frank Phillips later adding in an interview that cops had "interacted" with three men prior to the fatal shooting.
The use of euphemisms is never an encouraging sign, given that they are more often than not used to conceal some unpleasant truths; in this case, "discharged their weapons" and "interacted" were apparently deemed good substitutes for the less palatable, but more accurate fact that the deceased was shot and killed by the police.
The latest instance of police action resulting in death came the other day, when a handicapped 46-year-old man, Charles McGillivary, out for a walk with his mother, was tackled by police, went into cardiac arrest, and died. As reported in the Toronto Star, the SIU says:
police officers were conducting an investigation in the neighbourhood before McGillivary's arrest.
The release said McGillivary collapsed after a "physical interaction" during the arrest.
The SIU did not respond to a request for an interview.
The need for careful investigation of each instance of possible police wrongdoing is paramount. The SIU has demonstrated repeatedly that it is not up to the job. The troubling inability/refusal to identify fellow officers involved in the Hay beating and the G20 Charter Abuses is evidence either of police incompetence or obstruction of justice, the later a criminal offence. Clearly, newer and more compelling forms of police oversight are needed.
I leave the reader with a simple yet pressing question: Why is the public's right to know exactly how our police forces are conducting themselves being thwarted, it seems, every step of the way by an increasingly secretive and truculent constabulary?