Witness to Brutality

Rating: NNNNNI am disgusted and dismayed not only by what I've witnessed this afternoon, but by the process of accountability,.

Rating: NNNNN

I am disgusted and dismayed not only by what I’ve witnessed this afternoon, but by the process of accountability, which seems non-existent when trying to report these police travesties to none other than the police themselves.

At about 4:15 pm on Wednesday, April 10, while leaving Swiss Chalet on Yonge just south of Gerrard, I heard a 20ish black man screaming across the street. He was being handcuffed by 52 Division officers. Officer “D”, who had the “suspect” handcuffed, was wrenching the man’s right arm upwards behind his back, resulting in the young man’s screams of anguish.

Officer “W,” a metre away from Officer “D,” was keeping an eye on a group of youths who seemed to know the man. They were visibly upset, shouting to the police officers, “Stop hurting him he’s not resisting,” “He just got his casts off!” and other similar remarks.

The group of youths were 12 or 15 metres from the officers, posing no real threat. Staff members wearing name tags of the Evergreen Drop-In, a youth centre on Yonge, consoled them. I crossed the street to become a better witness and record badge numbers.

Then something even more disturbing happened. Officer “W” approached the man, who was securely handcuffed, subdued and pinned to the storefront, grabbed his face and smashed it into the storefront glass. As I crossed the street I shouted, “That is not necessary!” but was ignored.

One bystander who apparently had witnessed more than I had started asking the officers how they could possibly justify their treatment of this man in front of all these witnesses. Someone shouted that they wanted both officers’ badge numbers. Officer “W” turned and, in a way that can only be described as belligerent, exclaimed, “What the fuck are you gonna do about it?” in the presence of children and the elderly.

At this point two more police vehicles arrived on the scene. An older officer who seemed trained in damage control interrupted Officer “W” and gestured him to the back of the police mob that had formed, while Officer “D” hustled the arrestee into a waiting police car.

I asked the damage control officer what right a police officer has to intentionally hurt a subdued prisoner, then turn to a witness and basically threaten him with profanity. He offered a rehearsed response — without even having witnessed the incident. The officers were in a very stressful situation, he says, “threatened” by the “mob of street kids” and were in “fear” for their personal safety.

I spoke to some of the witnesses who were still around who voiced their shock and disgust at the events that had just transpired. From an Evergreen staff person and some of the man’s friends, I discovered that:

No one knew why he had been arrested (I found out later for allegedly being intoxicated in public).

The man’s first language is not English.

He had recently been in some type of violent accident and had both arms broken, and the casts had been removed recently.

He was utilizing the HRDC employment services at Evergreen.

Returning home confused, I called 52 Division and was directed to staff sergeant Bill McLeish. I quickly reviewed the events to him, whereupon he informed me that I would have to go to 52 to make a formal complaint. I walked to the station and asked for 30 copies of the form for other witnesses, business owners and Evergreen staff. I was refused. It was explained to me that each individual complainant has to go to the station personally to lodge his or her complaint.

The form is offered only in English. About one-third of the document is dedicated to the complainant’s personal information — name, home and work address and phone, fax, e-mail, etc. Three lines are dedicated to the complaint, not much space to make a legitimate case. Seems the cops want to know more about who’s complaining than about the conduct of their officers.

I returned home to do what I perceived as my civic duty. I carefully read the two-sheet addendum entitled Public Complaint Instructions and the Public Complaint Form. When I looked at the fine-print, I discovered that “it must be you who is directly affected by the officer’s conduct or the police services policy or service” to lodge a complaint.

Befuddled, I called McLeish. He apologized and told me there are no forms for a witness to lodge a complaint. A little perturbed by the wild goose chase I had been sent on, I inquired what option I had left to report the incident. He informed me that I could lodge a complaint because Officer “W” had said the F-word.

He added that the man had finally been brought into the station and was in the holding cells. He had been looked at (he did not specify by whom), and there was no apparent physical trauma. He was not lodging a complaint against the police officers.

After the runaround I was given, I wonder what legitimate recourse is available to a young person with English as a second language — who just had his face smashed into a storefront window — to receive some semblance of justice.

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