Jury at Andrew Loku inquest recommends giving Tasers to all front-line cops

Jury at Andrew Loku inquest recommends giving Tasers to all front-line cops
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Annual anti-Black racism training for police, Tasers for all front-line officers and the collection of race-based data were among the key recommendations delivered by the jury Friday at the coroner’s inquest into the death of Andrew Loku.

Before handing down its 39 recommendations, the five-person jury also declared Loku’s death a homicide, although that finding carries no legal weight. The 45-year-old father of five was shot and killed by Toronto police Const. Andrew Doyle on July 5, 2015.

Other non-binding recommendations delivered by the jury Friday include:

Video shows moments before Andrew Loku was shot by police

After weeks of pressure, the government released a heavily redacted , and appointed Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch to conduct a sweeping review of police oversight bodies .

“If the police had followed the training, if the police had de-escalated, if the police had taken a bit more time then Andrew would still be here and there wouldn’t be the need for these types of recommendations,” Loku family lawyer Jonathan Shime said Friday.

“That being said, we heard about three weeks of evidence that covered a broad range of issues, and I think the jury listened very well, and most importantly, they really got that this proved to be another case — one more, too many — of a Black man dying at the hands of the police.

“The reality is, statistically, Black men are dying disproportionately at the hands of police in Toronto and Ontario, and police forces across the province need to figure out why that is and come to terms with that and ensure there are zero deaths of anybody, Black or white, at the hands of the police.”

The inquest had featured a long list of participants, including lawyers for Toronto police and its board, the Toronto Police Association, the Black Action Defence Committee (BADC), the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health s Empowerment Council, and Across Boundaries, a mental health organization serving racialized communities.

The parties were sometimes at odds about the purpose of the inquest, with tensions rising around the role racism may have played in Loku’s death.

While overseeing coroner Dr. John Carlisle had allowed for implicit, or unconscious bias to be part of the scope of the inquest, racism was not — leading to for the explicit mention of racism.

“If these recommendations are adopted and put into force, I think we can avoid future deaths like Andrew’s,” said Across Boundaries’ lawyer, Howard Morton, who urged the government and police to immediately begin implementing the recommendations.

“This jury really got it. Right from the get-go, you could tell they were attentive, they asked very relevant questions, and they were completely open to our suggestion that anti-Black racism was clearly within the scope of this inquest.”

Black Lives Matter Toronto co-founder Sandy Hudson told the Star that some recommendations were promising, but highlighted that many have already been proposed before at previous inquests, attracting little or no action on the part of the police and government.

“This is the issue with the whole inquest process, where these recommendations are merely suggestions that police officers and the powers-that-be can choose to listen to or not listen to, and we’ve heard over the inquest process that they choose not to listen to them,” she said.

In more than two weeks of witness testimony and evidence, the jury heard the detailed circumstances of Loku’s 2015 fatal shooting, including from the officer who pulled the trigger.

Doyle, a 13-year police veteran, testified that he shot Loku as he advanced toward him, hammer raised, in the hallway of his apartment building, which is leased by CMHA to house people with mental health challenges.

Both Doyle and the rookie officer he was mentoring, Const. Haim Queroub, said they had been shouting at Loku to drop the hammer prior to the shooting.

In his closing address to the jury, Shime had stressed that Loku did not have to die, and was shot because “they let their fear of a black man with a hammer (8.5 metres) away overcome what should have been a compassionate and humane response.

“If only they had let compassion guide them instead of fear, if only they had let good sense and training guide them instead of panic, if only they had followed a multitude of recommendations made by previous inquests, then Andrew would be alive today.”
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