Being a police officer is one of the noblest professions one can have. Putting your life in harm’s way for the benefit of society and community day in and day out is an often grueling and, unfortunately, thankless task. The majority of police officers are good people, with good intentions, and a desire to help always on their mind. Sadly, not every police officer is a good police officer, and even worse, not every police officer is even a good person. And that’s where instances of police brutality come into play.
Sometimes an officer is just plain burnt out, or over stressed. Even if their actions cause long lasting consequences, police officers are people too, and many live with the results of their actions forever; sometimes though, they just really aren’t good people. It’s impossible to say what went through the minds of the officers involved in the incidents on this list; that would be far too speculative to decide. Furthermore, this list is by no means exhaustive; sadly it would take 100 lists just to cover all the recent instances of police brutality. And these are all recent instances.
Rodney King’s story has been told for over 20 years, the people on this list’s stories may not have even been told 20 times. Keep in mind, there are far more good police officers than bad and sometimes good police officers make bad decisions, because they are merely human like the rest of us, but in these cases, good cop or bad cop, bad things happened.
5. Police Plant Gun On 19-Year-Old Fong Lee
In 2006 in Minneapolis 19-year-old Fong Lee was involved in a foot chase with police on Elementary School property when he was shot nine times. The officer who shot him claimed Lee had a gun, though he never pointed it at the officer, but it was discovered later Lee was in fact unarmed. To justify the shooting the police planted a gun 2 feet from Lee’s body. The problem; the planted gun, a Russian-made Baikal .380, was actually evidence recovered from a burglary two years before the teenager’s death. In 2004, the police ran the gun’s serial number and confirmed it belonged to the burglary victim, but never returned it to him. When the discrepancies in the police reports and evidence at the scene of the crime were uncovered, they wrote new reports to clarify that the gun near the teen was not the same one that he had been carrying, just a random, already recovered former piece of evidence with none of Fong Lee’s fingerprints on the weapon. No other gun was discovered anywhere near where Lee was slain, and his family brought a lawsuit upon the Minneapolis police department.
4. Montréal Police Kill Homeless Man & Innocent Hospital Worker
In a truly shocking display of disregard for public safety (and Montréal Police have been known for more than a few), in June of 2011 Montréal police confronted the homeless and mentally ill Mario Hamel, who had been tearing open trash bags in the downtown core of the city with a knife. When confronted, Hamel allegedly approached the police officers with the knife, before turning around to flee. As he ran away, the officers gave chase and injudiciously opened fire on him, shooting and killing him. In the process a stray bullet from one of the officers’ weapons also hit 36-year-old hospital worker Patrick Limoges who was riding his bike to work that morning. He was also killed. As shocking as this case of excessive and unnecessary use of firearms was for the Montréalais, it sadly wasn’t the first time in 2011 that Montréal police were involved in deadly shootings; in January and February, there were three incidents involving police over three weeks, two of them resulting in deaths.
3. Georgia Police Kill Diabetic Man Needing Medical Attention
In October of 2013 in Waycross, Georgia 43-year-old Jack Lamar Roberson’s family called 911 seeking an ambulance and paramedics over concerns with complications due to his diabetes. Instead of an ambulance, the family had Waycross police officers at their door claiming they responded to an attempted suicide call. According to police the diabetic Robertson was also combative when they arrived, and lunged at them with at least two weapons. That’s when police opened fire, killing him. In these cases, it’s always so difficult to fully understand what happened inside a home, but the fact that police, and not paramedics responded to the 911 call over concerns about Robertson’s diabetes is odd. As confusing are the vast discrepancies in testimony from both the police, saying they encountered a combative man brandishing weapons, and the family saying: “He didn’t have nothing in his hands at any time or period at all before they came, any time while they were here, anything. They just came in and shot him.” Either way, a man is dead at the hands of an officer’s gun.
2. 2010 Toronto G-20 Protests
While the Great White North may be known as a safer, more peaceful country than its southern neighbor, the police forces in the major cities are every bit as brutal, if not worse sometimes. Case in point, the many protests that have taken place across the country over the past few years alone. The Quebec tuition protests in Montreal were bad enough (this writer was beaten with a night stick and peppered sprayed as a journalist bystander), but the G-20 protests in Toronto ultimately exposed the hypocrisy in Canada’s rhetoric. We’re a peaceful nation, except when it comes to our own citizens.
Not condoning the level of violence many of the protestors in fact were a part of, police reaction was arbitrary and swift towards everyone. Bystanders were arrested and detained in military style holding cells, sometimes for over a day just for being in the vicinity of the protests; others were accosted or beaten for the same reason. Anyone wearing black, whether it be a suit or a hooded jacket was immediately identified as a ‘Black Bloc Terrorist’ and detained. The most famous incident of the summit, and the one that came to define it, as well as provoke massive outcry from citizens and journalists alike, was the case of Adam Nobody.
A video uploaded to YouTube showed upwards of a dozen police officers surrounding and beating Nobody, who was not armed at the time, and did not resist. Ultimately he suffered a broken nose and cheekbone, and was charged with assaulting police. The charges against him were eventually dropped, and a Special Investigations Unit investigation was opened into the incident. The investigation was closed without any charges laid against police, because the SIU was unable to identify the officers as they had all covered their identification badges. Police witnesses all claimed to be unable to identify the officers, and the arresting officer had written an invalid ID number on the arrest record. So much for “land of the free and the home of the brave.”
1. Toronto Police Shoot Teenager On Streetcar
Once again, Canada takes another spot on this list, and sadly the top spot. The fact that nearly a dozen officers, nine gunshots, and then a Taser were needed to stop an 18-year-old kid with a knife on an empty streetcar seems absurdly excessive, but that’s exactly what happened on July 27, 2013 when Toronto police killed Sammy Yatim.
Now, there is absolutely no debate that Yatim was acting oddly, and aggressively on the streetcar while it was filled with other passengers. At one point he brandished his knife and ordered everyone to remain on the streetcar, before eventually changing his mind and telling everyone to get off the car. Eventually he got up and walked towards the driver with knife in hand, and the driver stopped the streetcar and exited. From there, police arrived and cornered Yatim on the streetcar. He was alone with his knife on the stopped streetcar with no hostages and having injured no one. While police were predominantly focused at the front entrance of the car, officers were also near the side entrance completely surrounding him.
After a certain amount of time, officers can be heard on the various Youtube videos posted of the incident shouting, “drop the knife.” Apparently Yatim does not, as a few seconds later he is shot three times. Less than 30 seconds after that he is shot another 6 times, and then he is tasered. Again, there is no debate as to whether Yatim acted erratic and aggressively the night of his death, but the extremely excessive force Toronto police applied to kill him goes well above and beyond the call of duty and is clear cut brutality. The courts of Ontario also agree, as the shooter, officer James Forcillo, was charged with second-degree murder on August 19 of 2013. If convicted of second-degree murder, he will be sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole for at least ten years.