Our system of justice is based on the rule of law, which is in fact enshrined in our constitution through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It means that the law applies to everyone – no one is above the law. And the law must be applied the same regardless of race, gender, status or any other consideration.
The reality, however, is that the military and the police at times get the kid glove version of the law while visible minorities who happen to be male are at the other end of the spectrum.
One of the causes, perhaps not the main one, of cases being tossed from the courts because of the time it took for them to get to trial is over-charging by cops. For example, if you’re black and found shoplifting an item and damaging it all the while and you were agitated during the arrest, you might well face charges of mischief, theft, resisting arrest and assaulting a peace officer out of one simple act or incident. And maybe more charges. These cases unnecessarily clog up the court docket.
But when a member of the military or the police allegedly commit a criminal transgression, the favoured instrument of trial is all too often their respective disciplinary code. Of course, this way of prosecuting miscreants keeps it “in the family.” And spares the offender from a criminal record and the stigma attached to having one. The consequence for police officers found guilty is generally a slap on the wrist in the form of a temporary rank reduction or some kind of fine.
Case in point, last week the Toronto Police Services Chief Mark Saunders was ordered by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIRPD) to hold a disciplinary hearing concerning Sgt. Eduardo Miranda. A video by a bystander showed “excessive force” being used by Miranda while arresting a man by repeatedly Tasering him six times when he was “prone face down on the ground being physically controlled by four officers,” according to the OIPRD. And stomping him repeatedly.
The hearing will be held Sept. 26 and the man who videotaped the incident, Waseem Khan, plans to attend.
Khan had a good point when he said: “I hope that there’s some sort of accountability, because I think officers, just like any other citizen, should be held accountable when they go beyond the law or do something criminal.”
Despite the video of the incident going viral, Toronto police apparently didn’t see anything wrong with one of their officers Tasering and stomping on a man repeatedly while being held on the ground. They had to be “ordered” to hold a hearing.
And logically, if the matter leads to reasonable grounds that a crime was committed, then the cop should be charged accordingly. The disciplinary hearing should follow.
As the video surfaced, Saunders should have immediately ordered a criminal investigation into the actions of his officer. He has so far shown himself to be a weak Chief, and too cozy with the police union.
The police board, supposedly his boss, should remind him that the thin blue line doesn’t override the rule of law.