Suicide by cop is a dubious designation, one of those excuses police apply to justify publicly their actions when they kill civilians. The notion is dubious for a number of reasons. First, it is applied after the fact in a range of diverse circumstances including those where the victim has not expressed suicidal wishes (or on the contrary is even happy in life) or is not posing a threat to anyone. Do not forget that the police attempted to use this defense to protect killer cop James Forcillo who shot Sammy Yatim multiple times while the youth was alone in an empty street car. Second, even if someone wishes to “die by cop” does not mean that the police are justified in killing them or should be expected to kill them. It speaks volumes that anyone could expect with probability that an encounter with police would end with the police taking their life. Third, if someone is experiencing mental health issues, the police are not the appropriate response and if they are called for such issues health care providers should be involved rather than police ready to shoot to kill. Fourth, in suicide the person takes the decision and acts. In “suicide by cop” the cops can choose not to shoot and kill the person. Someone is taking the active decision to kill you in a case where they could choose not to. Finally, “suicide by cop” should never be applied as a justification for police killing civilians as it is now. The facts of each encounter matter.
These are all issues to keep in mind when details emerge of the killing by Nunavut RCMP of a 39-year-old man in Hall Beach, in the Qikiqtaaluk region of Nunavut, a town with a population of about 750. RCMP encountered the man over the evening of Monday, May 1 and Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Police claim they were alerted to the man around 11:30 PM after receiving a call about an online Facebook live video in which the man ranted about “suicide by cops.” The man is alone and crying in the video. Police promptly attended the house where the man was present, by himself, and shot and killed him.
This is the third killing of a civilian by police since December 2016 in the small northern territory. As in other recent cases in which Nunavut RCMP have killed a civilian, the Ottawa Police Service will carry out the investigation into their fellow police officers. This is in no way an independent investigation and as in all cases of police “investigating” police lacks all credibility.