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.