Friday, 25 March 2011

Good cop nabs bad cop

This is an interesting story because it deals with the issue of bad cops who are thugs on the street and their police force’s attempt to hide their identities from other authorities and the public in general. It also tells of an unnamed police sergeant who discovered who one of the thugs was who it is alleged, beat up a protester and how he recognized the thug and reported him to the proper authorities.

To appreciate the significance of this story, let me take you back to last June when the City of Toronto hosted the G20 summit. As one can appreciate, it was necessary to use the services of twenty thousand police officers to ensure that there were no problems in the area of the summit.

Unfortunately there were two kinds of thugs in the area of the summit. They were civilian hooligans and police hooligans.

The civilian hooligans burned a police vehicle in the immediate area of the International Conference Centre in downtown Toronto and there were also civilian hooligans who smashed store and bank windows on some of the main streets. Unfortunately, these kinds of scum creep out of the mud whenever large groups of crowds congregate. Where were the police when this was happening? Some of them were watching what those scum were doing, but they did nothing to stop the scum from doing the damage. Why didn’t they intervene? The reason is that there weren’t enough of them in that area. The majority of the police officers were in other areas of the city, many of them abusing the citizens.

During the three days of protests that accompanied the G20, protesters were bludgeoned, kicked, tear gassed, trampled by police horses and shot at with rubber and plastic bullets. Homes were raided for ‘preventative arrests’ without presentation of a warrant. Journalists covering these unprecedented events were arrested and assaulted. Peaceful protesters and neighbourhood passers-by were kept in an intersection by police for hours without letting them leave during a driving thunderstorm.

For example, they were hassling a group of protesters that were in the area of the Ontario Legislative Buildings which is some distance from the conference centre. They arrested some of them and charged them with phony charges which were later thrown out of court.

At the detention center, dubbed ‘the kennel’ by police guards, demonstrators were hauled into primitive wire cages, strip searched and denied legal counsel. There, detainees suffering from concussion and deep lacerations were denied medical attention. A diabetic entering into shock was denied treatment for four hours. If they wanted to use the temporary toilets in the cages, they were seen by anyone passing by since the doors had been removed.

Of the 1,150 people arrested, more than 800 were released from custody without charge when the summit was over, proof that their arrests had been arbitrary. At the magistrate’s court in August, Crown prosecutors entirely back-footed by the grievous lack of evidence accompanying many of the remaining charges, agreed to withdraw 31 warrants outright and struck deals with another 22 individuals, staying all charges in exchange for agreements by the accused to donate $25 or $50 to charity. An additional 9 charges were dismissed because people were ‘listed in error.’ Five people signed a peace bond in exchange for full exoneration. Another 227 cases were adjourned until the autumn with the Crown failing in the majority of those cases to produce any evidence to defense lawyers. Only six individuals appearing before the magistrates pleaded guilty—mostly on charges of petty larceny.

The Toronto Police Services Board, which is supposed to exercise civilian oversight over the force, issued a press release thanking the police for “the manner in which they conducted themselves.” Fortunately, members of that board are going to be replaced now that a new mayor has been elected.

Over the course of Ombudsman Marin’s investigation, the Toronto Police Force refused to co-operate with the ombudsman’s repeated requests for information and the Force denied Marin permission to interview any police officers. Just prior to the release of Marin’s report, the obstructionist tactics of Chief Blair were once again on display.

When a by-stander at the so-called free speech zone several miles from the perimeter fence came forward with yet another video depicting police officers brutally beating a defenseless demonstrator, Blair baldly (and erroneously) stated that the video had been doctored and denounced the province’s Special Investigations Unit for overstepping their bounds for re-opening the police brutality case. Despite the video depicting the face of one of the offending officers—who, like at least 200 others had removed his name tag and badge number, the chief did nothing to have the offending officer identified. The thug’s face is clearly shown in the video when he for a brief moment lifted the plastic shield that covered his face.

I will do another article on this G20 debacle after I read the final report of the investigations that is being undertaken. Meanwhile, I wish to deal with one particular incident that occurred during that police farce in June. It is the one I briefly referred to in the previous paragraph.

The protester is named Adam Nobody. A friend of mine who is a former police investigator with the Professional Standards Branch of the Toronto police force told me that Mr. Nobody wasn’t born with that name. He changed his last name for the pun value.

Video of the arrest of Mr. Nobody showed him being apprehended by riot police during a demonstration at Queen’s Park. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU)which investigates wrongdoings of Ontario’s police forces, deemed ‘excessive force’ was used, but could not identify the officers involved. Stills from a video shot by an unnamed University of Toronto student and published in the Toronto Star, show the face of an officer who appears to strike Mr. Nobody repeatedly with a steel baton.

Mr. Nobody, who works building stages, told the Globe and Mail he was making a joke protest sign when he looked up and saw a group of police officers rushing him. They tackled him and dragged him behind a police van. Nobody, 27, said one officer had a boot on his head when another asked him for his name. “Adam Nobody,” he replied. The officer wasn’t amused. Nobody said the officer suddenly kicked him twice in the face, shouting, “Stop being a smartass.” The officer then pulled Nobody’s ID out of his pocket. “Shit,” the officer reportedly said. “This guy really is a Nobody.” Imagine what the officer would have done if after asking him for his last name and his real name was Guess. Unfortunately because the officer was in plainclothes, Mr. Nobody had no way of identifying him.

The alleged beating occurred away from prying eyes moments before he was filmed by a bystander. The video, provided to the Toronto Star by the unnamed University of Toronto student who attended the G20 protests at Queen’s Park on June 26th, shows police tackling Mr. Nobody to the ground, punching and striking him with batons. The footage is similar to a now-infamous YouTube video of the same incident shot by bystander John Bridge that drew allegations of ‘tampering’ from Toronto police Chief Bill Blair (for which he later apologized), but differs in that it shows the face of an officer who appears to strike Mr. Nobody repeatedly with a baton. The officer’s garb seems to conform with the uniform worn by Toronto police, with black pants featuring a red stripe down the side and what appears to be the force’s crest on the right shoulder.

The video led the Special Investigations Unit (SIU)to conclude that police probably used excessive force. The unit's director, Ian Scott, said an officer appears to make a “striking motion” with a closed fist, which may have caused a fracture below Nobody’s right eye.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair (who is definitely not the brightest light on the police force) went on local radio to lash out at the SIU's conclusion. He insisted the video had been tampered with and suggested Mr. Nobody had been armed. A day later, he publicly apologized. Where did he get the idea that Mr. Nobody was armed? Since he claimed that he had no idea who assaulted Mr. Nobody, it had to be mere speculation on his part. That was the ravings of a fool; a bumbler who has no control of his police force and in order to save face, praised them for their work at the G20 Summit and claimed that he can’t believe that his officers would do such heinous things to the citizens of Toronto. Is he naive or is he lying through his teeth?

At least he was smart enough to recognize that he made a rather stupid statement to the press and subsequently said, “This statement created a false impression that I wish to clarify. I have no evidence that he was armed or violent and all charges against the injured man have been withdrawn. I regret the false impression that my comments may have created and apologize to Mr. Nobody.”

The next step of course is for the police force to pay Mr. Nobody for his injuries. I think $10,000 would be reasonable. I guess he and the rest of us will have to wait to see if that ever becomes a reality.

Nobody saw his assault charge dropped after prosecutors conceded they had no evidence. They couldn’t even find the officer who arrested Mr. Nobody. The police badge number listed on the arrest sheet doesn’t correspond to anyone on the Toronto force. The Special Investigations Unit didn’t lay charges against the arresting officers. The agency’s investigators were unable to learn the identity of those who might have used excessive force in arresting Mr. Nobody. Officers who might have shed light on the incident refused to testify. That doesn’t surprise me. It is called, ‘The Blue Wall’. No police officer is willing to report to his superiors that he knows a police officer who has committed a crime.

That generally is what innocent victims of police brutality have to face when they accuse police officers of beating them up---other police officers standing about clamming up claiming they saw nothing even though they are only a few feet from the scene.

Well, guess what? A Toronto police officer did report what he saw. He wasn’t at the scene however when Nobody was being be beaten by the police. As it happens, according to sources, the sergeant, a front desk officer at that station was looking at video footage of police clashes with demonstrators from that awful weekend in Toronto. He recognized the face of the police officer. It was the face of Constable Babak Andalib-Goortani. This officer works as a traffic cop out of 31 Division. He pointed this out to one of the sergeants passing by him. It’s unclear if this was the footage shot by videographer John Bridge and posted on YouTube, which was first made public by the SIU about a month ago, or if it was a second corroborating piece of footage obtained by the Toronto Star and publicized a week later. But this event occurred within the past fortnight.

When an officer was looking at the image of the assault on Mr. Nobody on the computer screen, he said to his sergeant who was at that moment passing by,“Hey, take a look at this.” The officer turned the monitor so the sergeant could take a better gander. The sergeant recognized the face on the screen and said, “Oh, that’s Babak.”

That brief exchange somehow made its way to the SIU offices. The sergeant was summoned for an interview, the Toronto Star learned, and confirmed the identity of the cop with the goatee when his face shield was lifted to expose his face.

Now why is it then that no one at 31 Division recognized this officer? Remember what I said about the Blue Wall? Unless this thug had raped their wives or daughters, they weren’t going to turn him in simply because he beat a protester senseless. Does that tell you something of the caliber of these particular officers? They get anywhere from sixty to a hundred thousand dollars a year as police officers and they don’t give a shit about their fellow cop beating up an innocent citizen. They are supposed to detect and apprehend criminals and yet they appear to have ignored the criminal in their own ranks.

Babak Andalib-Goortani arrived at the SIU’s Mississauga headquarters on December 22nd in the company of his lawyer to hear the charge against him, a session that lasted just 20 minutes. As first a subject officer and now a criminally charged officer, he has the constitutional right to decline an interview with SIU investigators and his own police chief. This ‘perp’ is facing a charge of assault with a weapon, the weapon being the police baton which is made of steel.

As is the custom with citizens who’ve been charged, they are cuffed and taken into custody. Andalib-Goortani was not arrested in the fashion that is routine for civilians. He wasn’t taken into custody and cuffed; he wasn’t immediately remanded in court (his first appearance date wasn't until January 24th); and he wasn’t subjected to the ‘perp walk’ where an accused is often allowed to be photographed by the media — although the Toronto Star did catch Andalib-Goortani arriving and leaving the SIU offices, an appointment that hadn’t been previously revealed to inquiring journalists by the police.

Cops are nearly always treated differently, more respectfully, more gingerly, which is in itself cause for dismay in a society of purported equals. More distressing, though, is the fact that only one officer from among the scores of police officers who mistreated civilians during the G20 weekend has been charged thus far.

As the World Socialist Web Site wrote at the time, “The events in Toronto are a serious warning. The level of official violence is being ratcheted up. In the face of the upheavals to come, the state in every country is working up plans for mass repression. What dominates the politics and social relations of every country is the global economic crisis, which has reached an advanced stage. All the emphasis must now be placed on the development of a consciously socialist and internationalist movement of the working class, the only progressive response to the police state provocations and violence of the ruling elites”. unquote

What we need is better leadership in some of our police forces and a system that will make it an offence for police officers who witness crimes committed by fellow officers who refuse to report the crimes to their superiors.

If any police officer in the Toronto Police Force hassles the officer and sergeant who recognized the thug that beat up the protester, they should be dismissed from the Force. Such persons are no different than the thug that beat up the protester. Society doesn’t need that kind of filth in their police forces.

If this perp is convicted of assault with a weapon, there is only one sentence that would be appropriate and that is a term of imprisonment. Further, upon conviction, he should be dismissed from the police force.

Some people may say that dismissal from the police force is harsh but let me ask this rhetorical question. If an adult working in a day care centre beats up a child in his care, should he not be dismissed from the day care centre? Does it not follow then that if a police officer who is supposed to protect members of society beats up a citizen who has committed no crime, should he not be dismissed from the police force?

If his union says that he should remain in the police force even if he is convicted, then this tells you something about the character of its members.

I will keep my readers posted as this drama unfolds.

1 comment:

Dahn Batchelor said...

One reader said that he hoped that if the police officer I chastised in this article is acquitted, that I will state so. I certainly will and I will do it as an update in this particular blog.