Law ap­plies to cops too

Ottawa Sun - - CLASSIFIED -

Our sys­tem of jus­tice is based on the rule of law, which is, in fact, en­shrined in our con­sti­tu­tion through the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms. It means that the law ap­plies to ev­ery­one — no one is above the law. And the law must be ap­plied the same re­gard­less of race, gen­der, sta­tus or any other con­sid­er­a­tion.

The re­al­ity, how­ever, is that the mil­i­tary and the po­lice at times get the kid­glove ver­sion of the law while vis­i­ble mi­nori­ties who hap­pen to be male are at the other end of the spec­trum.

One of the causes, per­haps not the main one, of cases be­ing tossed from the courts be­cause of the time it took for them to get to trial is over-charg­ing by cops. For ex­am­ple, if you’re black and found shoplift­ing an item and dam­ag­ing it all the while and you were agi­tated dur­ing the ar­rest, you might well face charges of mis­chief, theft, re­sist­ing ar­rest and as­sault­ing a peace of­fi­cer out of one sim­ple act or in­ci­dent. And maybe more charges. These cases un­nec­es­sar­ily clog up the court docket.

But when a mem­ber of the mil­i­tary or the po­lice al­legedly com­mit a crim­i­nal trans­gres­sion, the favoured in­stru­ment of trial is all too of­ten their re­spec­tive dis­ci­plinary code. Of course, this way of pros­e­cut­ing mis­cre­ants keeps it “in the fam­ily.” And spares the of­fender from a crim­i­nal record and the stigma at­tached to hav­ing one. The con­se­quence for po­lice of­fi­cers found guilty is gen­er­ally a slap on the wrist in the form of a tem­po­rary rank re­duc­tion or some kind of fine.

A pos­si­ble case in point, last week Toronto Po­lice Waseem Khan holds his phone, which he used to cap­ture a po­lice take­down in the Dun­das and Church Sts. area. Chief Mark Saun­ders was or­dered by the Of­fice of the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Re­view Di­rec­tor (OIRPD) to hold a dis­ci­plinary hear­ing con­cern­ing Sgt. Ed­uardo Mi­randa. A video by a by­stander showed “ex­ces­sive force” be­ing used by Mi­randa while ar­rest­ing a man by Taser­ing him six times when he was “prone face down on the ground and be­ing phys­i­cally con­trolled by four of­fi­cers,” ac­cord­ing to the OIPRD. And an of­fi­cer ap­peared to be stomp­ing him re­peat­edly while yelling, “Stop re­sist­ing.”

The hear­ing will be held Sept. 26 and the man who video­taped the in­ci­dent, Waseem Khan, plans to at­tend.

Khan had a good point when he said: “I hope that there’s some sort of ac­count­abil­ity, be­cause I think of­fi­cers, just like any other ci­ti­zen, should be held ac­count­able when they go beyond the law or do some­thing crim­i­nal.”

De­spite the video of the in­ci­dent go­ing vi­ral, Toronto Po­lice ap­par­ently didn’t see any­thing wrong with one of their of­fi­cers Taser­ing and stomp­ing on a man re­peat­edly while be­ing held on the ground. They had to be “or­dered” to hold a hear­ing.

And log­i­cally, if the mat­ter leads to rea­son­able grounds that a crime was com­mit­ted, then the cop should be charged ac­cord­ingly. The dis­ci­plinary hear­ing should fol­low.

Af­ter the video be­came pub­lic, when one male of­fi­cer on the video was shown as say­ing, “He’s go­ing to spit in your face, you’re go­ing to get AIDS,” Toronto Po­lice apol­o­gized for the AIDS com­ment.

As the video sur­faced, Saun­ders should have im­me­di­ately or­dered a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ac­tions of his of­fi­cer. This in­ci­dent sug­gests a weak chief, and too cosy with the po­lice union.

The po­lice board, sup­pos­edly his boss, should re­mind him that the thin blue line doesn’t over­ride the rule of law.

MICHAEL PEAKE/TORONTO SUN FILES

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