Monday, July 29, 2013

We Have to End Police Killings and Brutality.

Indulge me for a minute.  Watch closely the video of Saturday night's killing of a kid aboard a Toronto streetcar.  The young man was apparently holding a knife with a 3-inch blade and had ignored a police command to drop it.

Ignore the officer with the gun doing the shooting.   Watch the other officers at the scene as they were before, during, and after the shooting.   Ignore everybody except those 'bystander' officers.

I count four officers near the front door of the bus before the shooting begins.  Off camera there are several others who enter the frame as the shots were fired.   When the shooting ends a number of other officers run to the bus.

The video is just 1:38 in length.  In other words, the mass of cops we see at the end must have been on site, just out of frame throughout the killing.  There were police cars, sirens blaring, cops everywhere, even bicycle cops in attendance.  The police gunman had to know that he had all the backup in the world.  Other officers also had their weapons drawn.  It was anything but a one-on-one confrontation.

The first shot occurs at the 11-second mark.   The first, 3-shot salvo is fired by the 13-second mark.   A second, 4-shot salvo, is fired in the 18 to 20 second interval.   An eighth shot is fired at 0:22 and the final, ninth shot at 0:24.   The fusillade spanned about 13 seconds.

What do all those other officers do during those life-ending 13 seconds?  Pretty much nothing.   Some seem to be milling around casually as though they were watching a street performer.  They certainly don't seem to be concerned much less fearful for their lives.

There was clearly an opportunity for nearby officers to restrain the shooter after the first, 3-round volley.  There were roughly five seconds that elapsed before that officer fired the next four rounds.  Five seconds in which any of the police officers immediately surrounding the shooter could have stopped this. The young man never left the bus.  He never emerged to present a physical threat to the officers.

Even if it could be said that the first three rounds were justified, and I question that, it's going to take some serious spin to justify the next six rounds fired into that kid.   To me, this resembles nothing so much as range practice only with a live target.

Why did the shooter's fellow officers not intervene?   Why did they stand by and let him fire another six rounds at or into that young man?  What might have been the outcome if those officers had interceded?

There's plenty of video of police officers blatantly assaulting even killing civilians while fellow officers mill about indifferently.  If we can stop police bystanding we can probably put an end to the frequency and severity of these situations.

If every cop spectator at that streetcar in Toronto fully understood they had a duty to protect the life of everyone, including that kid on the bus would shots four, five, six, seven, eight and nine have been fired?   If there was some protocol for situations where there is no truly immediate danger to take the decision to shoot away from the shooter, to make another officer responsible for deciding whether shots would be fired, would this young man be alive today?

We have to start making spectator cops liable if they fail to intervene where that is necessary.   How would the cop who fired those nine rounds have acted it he knew his actions were being scrutinized by his fellow cops and they might be under a duty to intervene?

People get hurt, some even die, when police in a position to police other cops don't.  Maybe we should think about changing that.


Brian Busby said...

The finest piece of writing I've read on Saturday's tragedy.

Thank you.

astone said...

Apparently, the shooter is devastated (according to the msm)! So it's all good. Today's cops are just missing a couple of lightning bolts on their collars!!!

The Mound of Sound said...

There was something about that five second pause between the first, 3-round salvo, and the second, 4-round volley, that I found very chilling. Then the pauses that preceded the eighth and ninth rounds made me wonder just what was going through the shooter's mind. It was almost as though they were measured. "No,one more. There. Okay, one more."

Nine. Some automatics have a nine-round clip. That might have been the last round in the officer's weapon - the full load.

He had a stationary, standing target. From that range it's hard to miss a target the size of a man's torso that's not moving. There are no distractions. Nobody is returning fire, nothing to duck.

My guess is that the shooter got himself into some state and his fellow officers did nothing to snap him out of it.

Even if the police authority white-washes this, I hope they ensure that guy never is entrusted with a gun again. Ever.

Beijing York said...

Interesting observation about the pacing, MoS. I wonder if the shooter was in the army before joining the police. Seems like the kind of over-kill behaviour that might be encouraged in Afghanistan.

This case is almost more violent that the horrible assault on Robert Dziekanski with Taser guns. The kid was a clear and non-threatening target for real bullets. Why did any idiot cop bother shooting him with a Taser after nine rounds of live ammo? Was that some sad attempt to suggest that the real bullet were a last resort? I guess they had no clue that they were being filmed. Not that I know whether they actually give two sh*ts after Robert Dziekanski.

The Mound of Sound said...

I doubt he was ex-military, B.Y. They're trained better than this cop.

The overkill in Afghanistan was mainly heavy weapons, airstrikes and drones. The infantry figured out if they waxed some farmer, the dead guy's cousins would be back, gunning for them the next week. Not much percentage in that.

Al said...

Our police are being militarized. Police firearm use was supposed to be only used if you are under immediate deadly threat, and then shoot to kill. No sign of that situation in this streetcar killing. Unless we see the transit video, it appears that he was alone and no one was being threatened.

The Mound of Sound said...

Witness statements confirm he was alone on the bus. The driver and passengers were safely gone.

The young man remained at all times on the bus where he was incapable of stabbing or slashing anyone. He remained there throughout the shooting.

What I cannot grasp is what all those other officers were thinking?

Did all those cops think this was a justified shooting? If so, what is wrong with the Toronto police department's training? There were almost a dozen cops on the scene yet not one is heard trying to stop this or doing anything to intervene. What does that tell you? It certainly speaks volumes to me.

A barrage of pistol fire spanning a full 13 seconds and not one of this gaggle of cops does anything. They LET him keep shooting until he was done. Every one of those cops has this kid's blood on their hands. They all have responsibility for his death.

Not one of those cops should be back on the street until this is investigated and they're screened to verify that they know their duty to the public. Right now that's looking doubtful.

Anonymous said...

A lot of soldiers come back to be cops and prison gaurds. There's a certain mentality, on the part of the government to take a "clean-cut kid and make a killer out him..."--Bob Dylan. But they do sign up for it so, there is personal responsibilty...Howard Sapers--prison ombudsman, is my hero. I learned from him that of the multi-billion dollar yearly budget of Corrections Canada--2% is allowed for programmes and help for inmates and their families. 98% is for 'secutity'. What's wrong with that picture?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Did you also notice the taser at the end? After the 9 shots? The cop was still screaming drop the knife.