At least nine pedestrians were killed in Toronto yesterday when a man in a white Ryder van systematically mowed over any and everyone in his path.
The intersection is very familiar to me. As a former TTC commuter who used to live in the city’s northeast end, Yonge and Finch was pretty much my second home. I’d have to pass by on my way to and from work and school. My parents have picked me up at that intersection, I’ve gotten dropped off at that intersection… My father and brother used to work at Yonge and Sheppard. If I were still living in Toronto, there’s a very good chance I would’ve been at Finch Station at the time the murders happened. Thus, this incident hits very close to home. Literally.
As much as we Canadians like to sit on our high horse when it comes to peace and safety in our country, we too have deranged individuals in our midst. As such, we too are having our own conversation in an attempt to get to the bottom of what happened. Very few details have been released, so we don’t know if this was a terrorist attack, nor do we know the name, nationality, motive or mental status of the suspect (Edit: We do now).
In addition to the nature of the attack, what a lot of people are talking about is the calm composure of the police officer who talked down and arrested the suspect — the police officer who did this all by his dammy.
I mean, he could’ve shot the suspect — there was reason to believe that the man had killed several people. He could’ve shot the suspect — the suspect wasn’t immediately cooperative. He could’ve shot the suspect — he didn’t have any backup, and it was stand-off, and it looked like, at times, the suspect was approaching the officer. He could’ve shot the suspect — I mean, the suspect did say, “Shoot me.” But, incredulously, he didn’t shoot. Hmm….
Oh how I wish this is what police officers would do in similar situations — they would just do their job. Nothing more (excessive force?) and nothing less. The officer who exhibited so much restraint in the attack yesterday should be commended. I’m so happy for officers like him on the force.
I would love to be self-righteous and say, “This is how we do in Toronto!!! *Brap* *Brap*” but then I remember Sammy Yatim and I realize some humility is needed.
Over the past few years (months?), in the land of our neighbours to the South, however, Black suspects have been shot in their backyard holding a white cell phone mistaken for a gun. Black boys have been shot while playing with toy guns. Black men have been shot with their hands up. Black men have been shot minding their own business and eating dinner in their yard. People have mistaken sandwiches for a gun… Black men just get shot — often for no good reason.
The police officers in these situations often have years on the force, and training (presumably) in how to identify a gun and cow down a situation… they often have back-up. And yet it almost always seems that their first response is to shoot… The police seem a little too trigger happy.
Now, I’m not a police officer. There are definitely nuances that I don’t notice. I am not privy to the protocol used in de-escalating a situation. I’m also not anti-police (that shouldn’t have to be said, but I know that as soon as you are critical of something, people think you hate that thing, and that is simply not true). And I must admit — sometimes suspects have to be shot — particularly if they are particularly dangerous to themselves or others.
But I can’t help but wonder — if a police officer without backup can take down an armed murder suspect by himself, why are all of these police officers shooting at Black male suspects, even when the suspects are unarmed, and even when the police officers have backup?
*cough* racism *cough* abuse of power *cough* Need anti-racism training and *cough* more training in effective conflict de-escalation *cough* Officers who do wrong *clears throat* and use excessive force need to be disciplined *cough* Need to look at systemic racism in law enforcement *cough*
Goodness, my throat seems to be bothering me tonight.
Before I call it a night, I just wanted to audaciously posit that, as depicted in the stand-off in Toronto yesterday, yes — it is indeed possible to deescalate a situation with an (allegedly) armed suspect. It is possible to recognize what a gun looks like. And no — you don’t have to shoot first and ask questions later.
Featured Image Photo Credit: Toronto Star