Who Remembers the death of Mr. Sammy Yatim? In the midst of a global pandemic and the most recent police brutality of Mr. George Floyd, it’s hard not to sit and think. Yatim, died of a similar extreme use of force by police officer, Mr. James Forcillo in July 2013. Yatim was a distressed 18-year-old in an empty Toronto streetcar, wielding a knife who was shot 9 times. Three years later, on July 2016, Forcillo was sentenced for attempted murder. This was the first time a Canadian police officer was convicted for brutal use of force, leading to death. Between 2013 and 2020, many abuse of police power had transpired, but there are some that are more sensational than others. The question is, how is our nation dealing with this issue?
Most recently, a Black man was killed by the abuse of police power in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020. Floyd, a 46-year old, father of two children, the youngest is 6 years old, moved to Minnesota from Houston, Texas to better his life. Police Officer, Mr. Derek Chauvin executed a brutal arrest procedure, by kneeling in the neck of Floyd, leading to his death. As a past Correction Officer for Young Offenders, I had been trained on the use of force techniques, and to be aware of asphyxiation. When I watched the news clip of Officer Chauvin resting his knee on Floyd’s neck, that was the first thing that came to mind. With so much adrenaline going through Floyd’s body during the arrest, he was being deprived of oxygen. Asphyxiation is worse for anyone who suffers from other illnesses, including mental health. In this case, Floyd may have been under the influence (I’m no doctor). That said, why didn’t Officer Chauvin know this?
Here we go again. The question of police officers’ fatal use of force is up for discussion. What do we, as a nation, do about it? The Yatim family are most likely sitting in their living room, watching the news, and recalling the death of their son. Was a 6-year prison sentence enough to deter wrongful police conduct? As of January 17, 2020, Forcillo is out on parole, having served almost all of his sentence on house arrest with his loved ones. Is that fair for the Yatim’s family? Floyd’s children and most recently, a grandchild will be growing up the rest of their lives without a father and a grandfather. What will Officer Chauvin’s sentence be? Whatever it will be, it won’t be enough to wash out a system ridden with racial practices, and abuse of police power.
Justice Edward Then, the Toronto judge in Yatim’s case stated, “Officers should only be drawing and using their firearms when they are faced with an imminent, potentially mortal threat.” The judge asked, rhetorically, “…is police training overemphasizing use of force, fatal and otherwise, in situations where the average citizen, lacking the benefit of police training, would see that force is not called for?” When an average citizen looked to see Floyd’s lifeless body on the ground, and had to ask the Officers to check the pulse, we have to sit and think. If this were another race, would Officer Chauvin have acted with such brutality?
No sentence given by the Courts of Justice is enough for crimes against police officers who fatally abuse their power against citizens, whom they are called to serve and protect. My recommendations are these: (1) Drastic review of legislations and policies are needed in our societies, pertaining to the police use of power by a designated Taskforce. (2) The police training programs ought to be seriously re-evaluated in every state. (3) A police audit should be conducted on Police forces nation wide. (4) Criminologists should be given the go-ahead to conduct research on racial profiling within the Force. (5) An apology to the families should be personally done by the chief of police every time a loved one is taken by the hands of police officers, including paying their respects at funerals. (6) Finally, the state of Minnesota ought to recognize May 25 annually by a police officers’ march.
These recommendations are a few steps to be taken to make lasting change in our nations’ Justice systems. If not, we will continue to forget martyrs like Yatim and Floyd who had to die by the hands of a police officer’s brutal use of force, leading to their deaths. Let’s not allow it to happen again.