Andrew Loku police shooting: Why can t we know who pulled the trigger?
|Toronto Star 02 Apr 2016 at 04:34|
In December 1990, a young burglary suspect was shot five times in a King St. E alleyway by an undercover Metro Toronto police officer.
It was among the first cases taken on by the nascent Special Investigations Unit, the civilian agency formed that same year to probe serious injury or deaths involving police. In the hours after the shooting, the SIU summoned OPP investigators to the scene, then promptly released basic information to the public including the name of the officer who pulled the trigger.
In this case, it was a 44-year-old detective named Gunnar Kloetzig, who was later cleared by the SIU.
More than 25 years later, members of Black Lives Matter are entering their second straight week of a 24/7 protest outside Toronto Police headquarters, in response to the SIUs decision to clear an unnamed Toronto officer in the shooting death of a .
Chief among the groups demands: Immediate release of the name of the officer who shot Loku.
If a police officers name is shrouded in mystery, we cant tell things like, have they had negative interactions with the public in the past? Is this a pattern? said Sandy Hudson, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Toronto chapter.
It becomes increasingly difficult to keep someone accountable if were not able to track and name.
The SIUs decision not to the name the officer who shot Loku is in keeping with its policy to identify an officer solely when he or she is criminally charged, said Jason Gennaro, spokesperson for the SIU.
In an email, Gennaro said the agencys policy is based on the provincial Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), which protects the personal information of every individual involved in an SIU investigation. Gennaro said it was a current and longstanding policy, but did not say when it took effect.
Gennaro did not respond to multiple requests for someone from the SIU to explain the rationale behind the policy.
Ian Scott, the former director of the SIU, called the naming of officers a grey issue. On the one hand, Scott said that if a thorough and independent investigation has deemed that the officer acted justifiably, there is no reason why that person should be stigmatized by having their name released in the context of the investigation.
On the other hand, I see the other side from the media and the public, that this is an agent of the state who led to the death of another citizen and on that basis, the name ought to be disclosed, he said.
Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, said he does not understand what will be achieved by releasing the name of the officer who shot Loku, except potentially endangering a member of the force.
Could that generate people threatening the officers, could that generate a safety issue? 100 per cent, he said. The answer to the Loku shooting is not to look at the mental health system, not to look at why we dont have frontline Tasers, but to release the name of the officer? Whats that going to do?
Criminologist Akwasi Owusu-Bempah believes it could achieve a lot, including build much-needed public trust.
Officers involved in fatal incidents are public servants, acting in an official capacity, he said. If their use of force is justified, that is part of the job; if not, that person should be held accountable in public.
Members of the public come to think the police have something to hide when they withhold information, such as the name of the officer in this case, he said in an email. Given the current climate in police-community relations, I think now is exactly the time that police need to be more and not less transparent.
The SIUs policy is in line with that of other provincial police watchdogs in Canada, including civilian agencies in British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.
Ronald MacDonald, the director of Nova Scotias Serious Incident Response Team , says he doesnt see a public interest in releasing an officers name if he determines that his or her actions were justified.
But as strongly as he believes there is no public interest in releasing the name, I believe even more strongly in a great deal of transparency in my decision-making, MacDonald said. He is committed to providing comprehensive reports, typically three of four typed pages, detailing his decision-making process.
I dont want the public to simply trust our decisions because of the objectivity and independence we have, but I want them to understand the decisions so they can see for themselves, he said.
In the wake of the SIUs decision in the Loku case, Black Lives Matter and other critics provided in the SIUs summary of its decision . They have also decried the fact that the civilian agency has not publicly released what it called a partial video of the scene.
Asked Friday if he believed the names of officers involved in SIU investigations should be released, Mayor John Tory said there needs to be a discussion about whether all officers at the scene would be named.
I havent really formed an opinion on that as to whether its fair to name all those people, he told reporters.
Lisa Taylor, a former lawyer and broadcaster who now teaches journalism at Ryerson University, worries the release of an officers identity in a high-profile case could open the door to vigilante justice or harrassment.
But she believes the public demand for the names of officers involved in shootings could be symptomatic of a larger problem: distrust of a civilian oversight system.
If we had greater faith in the SIU system, I dont think this would be as live an issue as it is. Weve come to a place where its not surprising that people doubt the fairness of SIU investigations.