Black Lives Matter confronts police board

By Gerald V. Paul

Mayor John Tory
Mayor John Tory

About a dozen demonstrators from Black Lives Matter left the streets of Toronto and took their protest into the Police Services Board meeting.

“We are asking you to take action or we will,” a protester shouted at the Thursday meeting.

They wanted the board say when the 84 recommendations contained in Justice Frank Iacobucci’s report will be implemented and demanded answers about the police killing of Andrew Loku.

Victim Andrew Loku
Victim Andrew Loku

The demonstrators said Loku, shot and killed by Toronto police officers on July 5, may have been in crisis at the time of his death. The father of five was wielding a hammer at his housing complex which was subsidized by the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Loku’s death is not the first time a person who may be emotionally disturbed has died at the hands of Toronto police. In a high-profile case on July, 27, 2013, Sammy Yatim, 18, was shot eight times by a Toronto policeman on a streetcar while he brandished a three-inch knife. That killing was caught on videotape.

Iacobucci’s report provided recommendations for how to deal with “people in crisis.”

Black Lives Matter’s demands include a public apology from Mayor John Tory and Police Chief Mark Saunders.

“I think it’s a profound tragedy when anybody with mental illness or anybody loses their life in the city,’ said Tory who sits on the civilian oversight board in addressing the group.

Tory, a lawyer, noted that because of the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) probe underway, it would be inappropriate for the police board to comment.

Outgoing police board chair Alok Mukerjee said, “The Iacobucci recommendations have been approved and they’re in the process of being implemented fully. Any death, and the death of Andrew Loku, is a matter of profound sadness and sorrow for all of us.”

Meanwhile, the board approved a request from Mukerjee to ask Saunders to report back in September on the feasibility of deploying the body cameras during all non-arrest, non-detention, informal interactions with members of the community, as well as in investigative situations.

The force has a year-long pilot project to test the cameras until next March.

Gerald V. Paul
Gerald V. Paul