The word "demagogue" would fade away if politicians stopped making pronouncements whenever something tragic happens. Last week in Toronto, a tragedy so miserable and so ugly happened that only an appointed public figure—Ontario's ombudsman Andre Morin—had the intestinal fortitude to take advantage.
A boy stood alone in a streetcar, holding a knife and exposing himself. He had allowed about 20 passengers to get off—in a hell of a hurry, of course. Nevertheless, he didn’t react instantly to instructions by a police officer to drop the knife. So the officer—outside the car, with his buddies standing around him—proceeded to shoot crazy-looking, eighteen-year-old Sammy Yatim to death.
After watching the drama (thanks to eyewitness videos), Morin decided that Ontario’s police forces need to be better trained in how to “de-escalate” dangerous, strange, and annoying situations. He’s called for more training before—and, dammit, they just haven’t listened!
Police representatives and their champions complain that his suggestion was “premature.” That’s not my only problem with him.
Surely, the first order of business is not to look for a gap in a training manual but to determine whether a lethal crime was committed by the police officer who shot Sammy Yatim nine times.
Responsible People in Responsible Jobs naturally fear being accused of rushing to judge. However, turning to policy wonks and educators before justice is done, before we address what the police officer actually did, is creepy.
I’m a big fan of training and helped set up Ontario’s first Ministry of Skills. However, in this civilization, we don’t have to spell out in job manuals that good men and women, including police officers, shouldn’t shoot people who make them nervous or call them “pussies.”