Tuesday, June 09, 2020

If Sammy Yatim's Meltdown Happened Today Would He Still Be Alive?

The video of Toronto cop, James Forcillo, executing a young man on a Toronto street car is one of those horrible events that, once seen, never quite goes away.

There is Yatim, the sole occupant of the street car, standing at the front stairwell.  At a considerable and definitely safe distance away stands Yatim's killer, constable James Forcillo.

There are cops everywhere, plenty more arriving as Forcillo draws a bead on Yatim, firing a three round volley into the young man, dropping him where he stood. Then, as his fellow officers simply stand there, Forcillo waits another five or six seconds before emptying his pistol, another six rounds, into the young man laying on the bus floor.

Here's what the cops knew. Yatim had brandished a pocket knife on the street car. The driver pulled to the curb. The panicked passengers fled. Yatim didn't harm any of them. The driver got out but then reboarded to grab some of his stuff. Like the others, he was unharmed.

The rest is all on video taken by bystanders with their smartphones.  Yatim stands alone on the street car, incapable of harming anyone with his pocketknife. The cops, including Forcillo, gather.

What if Forcillo's fellow cops had done the right thing? What if they had intervened, if not at the outset then after Yatim was downed by Forcillo's first three-round salvo? What if they had said, "enough, no more"?

What if those cops had done the right thing? Yatim might have still died of his initial wounds. We don't know. However that possibility was effectively foreclosed when Forcillo's fellow officers chose not to intervene. They allowed Forcillo to pump another six rounds into Sammy Yatim's body. Six rounds.

On this, the day that George Floyd is to be interred, it's right that Canadians should ask, "what if?"


Anonymous said...

Forcillo had no business boarding that streetcar. Yatim was no danger to anyone but himself and police could simply have waited for a crisis negotiator or mental health professional to arrive.

But Forcillo was trained to escalate against anyone who didn't immediately and unconditionally obey. And as this week's case of D'Andre Campbell in neighboring Brampton shows, little has changed in policing.

What if Canadian uniformed police were equipped with nothing more lethal than a baton? Police in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and Norway are able to cope. And a trained baton user should be able to disarm someone with a pen knife. Unfortunately, our police forces have become infected with the weapons and tactics of the US police and have stopped looking to their Commonwealth brethren. This really needs to stop.


Lorne said...

A very timely post, Mound. These past many days I have been thinking of Yatim's execution and the fact that the brothers in blue did absolutely nothing to try to stop Forcillo. Of course, as with the murder of George Floyd, there would have been no reckoning had video evidence not existed.

Mandatory body cams, turned on at all times, is a necessary first step in protecting all citizens against police violence.

The Disaffected Lib said...

There was a somewhat similar case on Granville & 16th Ave. - a tony Vancouver neighbourhood. A mentally disturbed man was brandishing a bike chain with a lock attached. He had apparently beaned a cop. Gunfire ensued. The guy was hit with something like seven rounds. A Vancouver PD officer removed the chain and lock but the man continued across the street on all fours. Then a cop administered the coup de grace, a headshot, killing the man.

A poor quality video was taken by a tourist from Manitoba. Only five years after the shooting, when the man learned that the cops had been cleared, did he make his video available.


Shooting a badly wounded man with multiple gunshot wounds in the head and after he had been disarmed is an execution. It's how you would put down a rabid dog.

The Disaffected Lib said...

We need a "bystander cop" law that makes every officer at a scene accountable to protect every life, even from their fellow officers.

Anonymous said...

The execution of the tiny woman in Edmunston NB by a cop last week was the same thing. Five rounds to kill some mentally afflicted person wielding a knife. That's not self-defence, that's execution of a "varmint".

As Cap says, it's the attitude of police jerks who insist that those "who didn't immediately and unconditionally obey" are subject to force and perhaps lethal force at that. Who are these people, and why do their unions, brotherhood and superiors put up with this nonsense? It's gone right off the rails, and is nowhere near the glib pronouncement on some police vehicles "to serve and protect". These police live in a dreamland where they are omnipotent and are armed to the teeth as well. And a spot of lying to cover up the obvious is standard procedure as well.

No wonder Minneapolis is shutting down their version of this crazed outlook. Time for a reboot.


John B. said...

Policemen have a tough job and I wouldn't want it. But a country that is willing to pay them better than we pay graduate engineers, technologists and school teachers deserves something better than what Sammy Yatin and the guy in Vancouver got.

The Disaffected Lib said...

One of the defence witnesses called by Forcillo's counsel was a "use of force" expert. He testified that it was standard protocol, perhaps only for the Toronto PD, I don't recall that, when an officer fires his pistol he shoots to kill and is expected to fire his entire magazine. No shoot to wound, no cease fire when the target is incapacitated. Shoot to execute. I found that very disturbing.

It strikes me that a firearm should only be used where the officer or some other person's life is in immediate danger. Yatim was felled before he set foot in the stairwell. A number of officers had their weapons drawn. Forcillo was in no mortal danger, immediate or otherwise. That, to me, was an outright execution of a non-threat.

Anonymous said...

We spend more than enough on police as it is without adding bodycams to every cop, Lorne. Policing is the biggest line item in the Toronto budget, and it's the one that's virtually bulletproof when it comes to cuts. Instead, the cuts fall on libraries, community centres, athletic facilities - you know, the places that keep young people out of the hands of police.

I might feel differently if social science showed that bodycams reduced police violence or brought greater accountability, but it doesn't. They just add to the already pernicious level of surveillance in marginalized communities and give police another way to avoid budget cuts.


Toby said...

Something that is hard to get one's head around is corporate process in government run enforcements. A frightful example is the Nazi death camps which ran like any other factory. The operators kept careful, detailed records. The documents are still there, requisitions for rail cars, dogs, bullets, CyclonB gas and all the mundane things needed to run any business. That they were killing people was not really part of the mind set.

The collective mindset of so many police departments is so imbued with their own corporate culture that many members have long since crossed over the line that Hannah Arendt called the banality of evil. Just like we shut down the death camps we need to shut down police departments as we know them; I include the RCMP. The rot goes deep.

The Disaffected Lib said...

I think we all sense that policing, as it exists in Canada and the US, has grown into something that defies effective civilian control. It's not healthy - not for elected officials the cops are supposed to obey, not for the public the cops are supposed to serve. Police unions such as Toronto's have become political players and openly thuggish. We've let them grow too powerful and that has spread a toxic mentality through their ranks. If they think they've got an unduly dangerous job they should come out here are try their hand at logging or open ocean fishing.

the salamander said...

.. ergh ..

Must I again repeat my refrains re 'Public Servant' ?
David Climenhaga today re-posts a prescient writing .. that really gets after the lazy journalism & dangerous perceptions of partisan politicized politicians. (and I must give a shout out & h/t to Cowichan Conversations re todays post
which is a wonderful story of 'Franklin' and Peanuts)

Sammy Yatim was victim of a travesty. The other execution you mention.. I am red faced to say I missed it. Once again I want to stress that Canada eh.. must ensure that Canadians (a majority of us anyway) define and refine a completely different pathway or evolution vis a vis The United States. Thus back to 'Public Service' .. as enected by 'Public Servants' .. whether elected, annointed, appointed.. or slithered into our drinking water.

Currently.. I am DISGUSTED.. the ROI (return on investment to Canadians) is scandalous.. non existant.. scammy, scummy.. I guess I didn't realize that bestowing handsome salary, wondrous benefits, celestial pension.. also came with a 'sainthood' diploma & all delivered conveniently via Stork.. 'immaculate conception' dontcha know

e.a.f. said...

Never did understand why they murdered the young man. all they had to do was wait him out. He didn't seem to be going anywhere. Eventually he would have gotten tired, he would have wanted a pop or water or something to eat. Now that might have tied up traffic, but Sammy would have been alive. If a cop can't handle a young man like Sammy Y. in a melt down, they ought not to be a cop.

Now understand t.v. shows aren't truly reflective of the times, but have a look back at old cop shows and movies and see how little equipment they wore, how few guns they had with them.

This business of killing citizens has got to stop because if something isn't done, it will continue and for all of you who think it won't happen to you or your kid, think again. As some cops become emboldened they will use more extreme measures to deal with any one who is in their way. it could be you, even if you're white, middle class, professional. No one needs to die. If the cops are that afraid of some of these people, they need to find another job. Better yet, don't give cops guns unless they've been on the job for a specific number of years and have clearly demonstrated they dont' need to use them.

I recall a story one of the domestic units told me about a time they lived in London, England when there were some very dangerous criminals running around. No guns and the officers still could arrest the criminals. No violence, arrest made, end of story.

The Disaffected Lib said...

e.a.f. - I lived in England in the late 60s. The cops had an understanding with the criminal types about no guns. Neither side wanted to "spoil it."

The Disaffected Lib said...

Sal, the 12th and Granville killing went unnoticed for five years. The only account that emerged in the immediate aftermath came from the cops. Case closed. Nothing to see here. It was only five years later than a guy with a grainy cellphone video, a Manitoban who was visiting Vancouver, learned that no one knew the truth, what he had seen play out in front of him. He still had the video.