To get good insightful answers, how the question is framed matters. I missed an opportunity on Thursday
The Steve Mesic police shooting is a topic of conversation for many as we struggle to comprehend how and why this tragic event happened in our community, absent of any of that information.
Mesic was shot, and killed, by Hamilton Police on June 7, 2013. The SIU is investigating.
The Hamilton Spectator‘s **Bill Dunphy and Susan Clairmont are proving comphrensive coverage of this story. They are providing use with insightful information about what we can learn of what happened, the process of the investigation, and are making sure the story is not forgotten. They have filed Freedom of Information requests for police policies for situations with emotionally disturbed persons.
No information and a wait for answers
Comparsions are being drawn to the Sammy Yatim shooting in Toronto which sees Toronto Police Constable James Forcillo charged with second-degree murder. Yatim was fatally shoot on July 27th and the SIU laid charges against Cst. Forcillo on August 19th.
I doubt, and hope, public pressure had no bearing upon the decision of the SIU in this case. The reason being that our justice system must be blind to public-opinion (our legislatures who make the laws should not be) to be fair.
For all the flaws with the SIU, we cannot have investigative outcomes swayed by public opinion. Reform of the SIU, including creating transparency, is a file the Legislature needs to work at immediately.
The key differences between these cases is the Yatim shooting had dozens of witnesses and video, whereas there are no independent witnesses and no video Mesic shooting.
Forensics will be key to the SIU investigation in Hamilton. Forensic testings and analysis takes time. During this process, the SIU remains publicly silent and we, the public, are left with no knowledge of what happened.
There are only three people who know what happened on June 7, 2013. The two subject officers and Mr. Mesic who is dead.
Until we have forensic evidence and the coroner’s autopsy report, we cannot make any conclusions, and must endure the frustrating wait for answers.
Time for Vest-Mounted Video Cameras
It is time for frontline police officers to weat vest-mounted cameras – to increase public confidence and protect themselves when they are properly doing their duties.
Public confidence in policing has decreased since the events of the G20. Add in a mix of videos of the bad apples within policing, and the good officers on the street get painted with a coat of distrust by those who rightfully question the character of the person behind the badge.
Video isn’t a “gotcha” device, it’s a passive non-bias observer.
Last June, there was a video distributed on YouTube of a Hamilton Police arrest of a person dealing “fake cocaine” downtown. Upon viewing the now-deleted video, it was clear that no wrongdoing occurred. The officer involved used appropriate force.
Without the video, the complainant could not be proven to be making a false accusation. Video works the other way as well as we’ve seen too many times.
In California, misconduct complaints at the Rialto Police Department (pop. 93284) decreased year-over-year by 88 percent after the introduction of cameras worn by half of the city’s uniform patrol – this includes among officers without cameras.
60 percent is the reduction in the use-of-force by officers during that time.
Danger often happens where good citizens are not
The most dangerous situations police encounter, when their lives are endangered, will occur away from citizen cameras or non-police witnesses.
Vest-mounted cameras will ensure there are no doubts about the actions of the police service.
It’s time for the Hamilton Police Service to stop the erosion of public confidence caused by lingering doubts about the SIU and inconclusion evidence released to the public.
A badge and a camera, that’s what we should see on every police uniform.