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The police shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim: The city grieves with his family and we demand justice

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Sammy Yatim

Hello my fellow rabble rousers, 

I was in Trinity-Bellwoods Park in the early morning of Saturday the 27th of July. I was with some friends celebrating the launch of a new culinary venture when Constable James Forcillo of 14 Division shot 18-year-old Sammy Yatim at the corner of Bellwoods Ave. and Dundas West. Like most people in the park that night I heard the shots though I was too far away to know precisely what had happened. It was not until we had left the park on our bikes (and were nearly flattened by a speeding police car coming out of an alley) and met up with another friend did we lean that the police were the ones responsible.

They shot Sammy Yatim nine times and then for good measure they decided to taze him all while he was cornered in a streetcar. No matter what the circumstances there can be no justification for this. The city grieves with his family and we demand justice.

Police violence is nothing new for Toronto. There is a pending corner's inquest into the police shootings of Michael Eligon, Reyal Jardine-Douglas and Sylvia Klibingaitis, all of whom were killed between August 2010 and February 2012. In 1997 police officers from 14 Division killed Edmund Yu on a Toronto streetcar.

This kind of police violence is not limited to Toronto. There have been incidences of police violence across the country and rarely are they ever held to account. This is ultimately an indication that something is rotten in policing culture.

On Monday, July 29, I attended the vigil for Sammy Yatim and demonstration against police violence. I spoke to a number of people during the course of the march. To a person they were outraged by the actions of the police. Some knew Sammy personally, some were furious at this latest incidence of police brutality, and others joined the demonstration as they came out of their offices and felt compelled to join the march having, like most Torontonians, seen the footage taken by a citizen with a cell phone.

In the weeks since the shooting there has been much talk in the community about the effectivness of the SIU (Special Investigations Unit, they are called in to investigate the police in cases like this). The Ontario Ombudsman, André Marin, in response to previous instances of police brutality, issued a report with a series of recomendations to improve the SIU's response, which have yet to be implemeted. In the wake of the killing of Sammy Yatim, Marin has launched an investigation into police use of force guildlines and de-escalation tactics. He has, of course faced pushback from the police.

In a statement in response to the ombudsman's inquest Sammy Yatim's Family said:  "We are grateful that this investigation will further public dialogue on police procedures and acceptable de-escalation tactics, and that this inquiry will hopefully, finally, lead to the implementation, not just recommendation, of safe conflict resolution procedures."

However, it is clear that we need to collectivly keep up the preasure on both the police and the obudsman's office. In the past, police violence has slipped off the radar as new outrages pile up. We cannot allow this to happen again. Sammy Yatim's family deserves some measure of justice for their loss. It is up to all of us to make sure they get it. We need to make sure that collectively we keep the Toronto Police Services' feet to the fire.

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Á la prochaine mes amis!

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