Police Use of Excessive Force in Toronto. Criminal?

Police Use of Excessive Force in Toronto. Criminal?

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Police are a necessary part of any functional society, but what happens if you stop feeling protected and begin feeling threatened by your police force? It is not a society that many would choose to live in but unfortunately it is starting to become a trend in many big cities, including Toronto.

On November 4, 2016, the Nabico family were deeply affected by the actions of the Toronto police. Rui Nabico was killed as a result of injuries caused by being tasered by an officer outside a quiet and calm residential street with a conducted energy weapon (CEW). There will no doubt be an investigation into the propriety of the Taser usage. The investigation will inquire into whether the Taser use was considered to be excessive force on behalf of the police officer. These are questions that will be likely have to be answered if the situation sees the inside of a courtroom or an inquiry.

In 2008, Adam Weisberg argued that police used excessive force when Tasering one of his clients. Mr. Weisberg demonstrated that it was likely the police had handcuffed his client and then Tasered him in the back as a form of punishment. This clearly was a violation of his client’s Charter rights. Luckily, the client survived with minimal injuries.  The judge stayed the serious drug trafficking charges the client was facing due to the police conduct. A stay is tantamount to a finding of not guilty.


Like many densely populated cities, Toronto occasionally deals with allegations of misconduct against its police officers. In situations where a civilian dies and the police are involved there will always be an investigation. Anytime an officer kills someone in the line of duty there is a strict procedure to follow to ensure the law is upheld and everyone is protected. Each case of death, serious injury or alleged sexual assault by a police officer are investigated by Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU).

The SIU exists only to investigate the actions of police as previously stated and to deem if there has been a criminal offence committed.  Since the SIU is an “arms length” organization to the police force they are not technically investigating their own, which allows for a less biased process. The SIU will investigate the scene, the witnesses and every shred of evidence available to determine if criminal charges need to be laid against the officer in question. All investigations are submitted to the Attorney General upon completion of their investigation. The problem is that deaths are occurring in the first place and these deaths are sometimes caused by those commissioned to protect our citizens.

History Speaks Volumes

Looking into Toronto’s list of deaths caused by law enforcement officers it’s easy to see that the Toronto Police have room for improvement. Being a police officer is a difficult job, however, everything possible must be done to minimize civilian casualties.

Police officers have a right to protect themselves in the line of duty. The difficulty is that when looking at statistics, any death, seems to be too much death.

The Fix?

The Toronto Police have been trying to increase the number of conducted energy weapons – Tasers – within the force in recent years. Tasers do not typically result in fatalities when deployed on another human. As we know, however, Tasers are not perfect and their overuse can be problematic. Law enforcement has been aware of deaths when Tasers are used on certain people. The experts have been calling this phenomenon “excited delirium.” The Nabico case is interesting because the cause of death was not immediately known due to a Taser being deployed.  In a police shooting the cause of death can be readily and easily identified. Nabico was sent into medical distress and eventually died as a result of the deployment of the Taser to his body. Tasers are not perfect and not necessarily the ideal solution for all circumstances.  Police departments for the past decade or so have been assessing if Tasers are the safest way to control certain hostile situations.

Impact on Family

Nabico’s surviving family is left with questions and a long road ahead. Their hopes to hire a criminal lawyer in Toronto to get justice for Nabico lay with a GoFundMe campaign. Criminal cases can last a long time and come with expensive legal fees. For an unsuspecting working class family, this is a devastating continuation of the horrors already felt. Nabico left behind many family members, and although the intent of the police officer likely was not to kill in this situation, the officer’s actions did lead to Nabico’s death and these actions should be examined.

The Criminal Justice System in Reverse

There can be a certain amount of public interest expected in cases involving police. Families need to trust in the court system to uphold the values and the law even if those accused are in law enforcement.

No family should experience the loss of a loved one’s life at the hand of those sworn to protect civilians. Unfortunately, the system is not perfect and humans make mistakes.  The point is that law enforcement must continue to improve itself to reduce deaths of civilians. Even deaths that are justified killings by police are tragic and must be avoided.  No police officer goes to work hoping to have to use lethal force. Tasers are obviously less likely to cause death than police firearms. Tasers are not, however, always the ideal solution. Law enforcement must continue to adapt and make changes to protect its citizens and reduce injuries and fatalities caused in the line of duty.

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This post was written by Faith_Murray

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