Tag Archives: Hamilton

Witness Identifies Victim of Hamilton Police Shooting as 19-Year-Old (April 3, 2018)

A witness has reported that the young man shot and killed by Hamilton police on April 3, 2018, was a 19-year-old. According to the witness, who lives in the neighborhood where the killing occurred, someone called 911 asking for help but when police arrived the victim was chased by officers. The witness says that they saw police attempt to deploy a taser and when that failed they shot the victim three times, including in the face. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has since confirmed the victim’s age as 19. Few other details have been released publicly.

The killing occurred near a townhouse complex on the west side of Hamilton Mountain at around 3:30 PM. Two officers are reported to have fired their weapons, striking and killing the young man.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has assigned five investigators and three forensics specialists to examine the killing. The SIU has identified four witness officers.

The victim was reported to be from the area where police killed him. The witness also reports that the shooting occurred in full view of children who were outside playing hockey at the time.

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Hamilton Police Shoot and Kill Man (April 3, 2018)

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police violence in Ontario, is investigating the shooting and killing of a man by Hamilton police on the West Mountain on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 3, 2018. It is reported that officers responded to a call at a townhouse complex on Caledon Avenue. The victim was transported to hospital but has been pronounced dead. At least two witnesses have reported that the man was shot. This is an initial report and other details have not been released publicly.


SIU Denies Justice for Tony Divers: Killer Hamilton Cop Cleared Despite Serious Questions

Family and loved ones of Tony Divers have been kept in the dark about the SIU investigation into the police killing of the 36-year-old Hamilton man. On Thursday, August 10, 2017, they received the awful news that the Special Investigations Unit  has cleared the Hamilton officer who shot Tony Divers will not be charged. The decision comes 10 months after the killing on September 30, 2017, a too long period of time in which questions from the family have not been properly addressed.

The officer responsible fired two shots at the unarmed Divers, with one bullet hitting the victim in the chest. Despite the fact that Divers was unarmed, SIU Director Tony Loparco concluded the officer was justified in believing his own life was at risk and in fearing that Divers was armed. Under Loparco the already questionable SIU has become something of a legitimation mechanism for cops who kill civilians.

Yvonne Alexander, Tony Divers’ sister, and a tireless advocate for information and justice, responded with the pained honesty of someone whose loved one has been killed by police: “I’m shocked but I’m not at all surprised. Because it seems to be the norm these days for officers to shoot and kill someone in mental crisis” (quoted in Bennett 2017).

Of particular concern for observers is the report that the call to police included a claim that Divers was  “anti-police.” Did this play into the quick resort to lethal force by Hamilton police?

This is reinforced by Loparco’s  conclusion in the case: “On all of the information that the [officer] had in his possession at the time he shot and killed Mr. Divers, I find that the [officer], subjectively, had reasonable grounds to believe that his life was at risk from Mr. Divers” (quoted in Bennett 2017). Because he was said to be “anti-police?”

Loparco continues: “I find in all the circumstances, that despite the after the fact knowledge that Mr. Divers was not armed, the [officer] reasonably believed that his life was in danger from Mr. Divers and his actions in firing upon Mr. Divers were justified” (quoted in Bennett 2017). This is in keeping with other SIU findings under Loparco.

Loparco further notes in his report that the officer who shot Tony Divers had had previous contact with the victim and considered him “anti-police and very violent” (quoted in Bennett 2017). The officer actually appears to have held several prejudices against Tony Divers, including the assumptions that he was involved in organized crime and a drug user. The SIU report does not delve into these issues in probing detail.

The family says that Tony Divers was struggling with mental health issues when the officer shot him. For the family, this did not matter to police who responded to their loved one through the prejudging lens that held him as simply a thug.

Edward Divers, the victim’s brother, said the decision and explanation for why the shooting is justified felt to him like “an eye for an eye,” that his brother was treated as a “violent thug” with no regard for his mental illness.

One eyewitness, who says he did not see Divers holding any weapon, also said the victim appeared to pose no threat to anyone. Yet he did note that Divers did not seem subservient to the officer, a situation that seems to provoke police violence (respect their authority or die). According to witness Joe Towers: “He didn’t look very afraid of the cop; he wasn’t being cooperative, but he didn’t look like he was any particular threat. It just didn’t seem like he wanted to be arrested” (quoted in Bennett 2017).

Further Reading

Bennett, Kelly. 2017. “SIU Clears Hamilton Officer in Death of Man Shot Near GO Station.” CBC News August 10. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/divers-siu-decision-released-1.4204146

 


Former Oversight Director Says Police are “Ungovernable”: Hamilton Cops Do Not Report Killing of Chokha Bayez (20)

As this project has detailed repeatedly police across Canada act largely as they wish in investigations into the harms they inflict on civilians. This includes not even reporting those harms.

In September of 2016 a Hamilton police officer was involved in a vehicular pursuit that killed 20-year-old motorcyclist Chokha Bayez. Yet the Hamilton police broke the law and never reported the killing by the officer to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) as they are required to do. Every police service in Ontario is legally mandated to notify the SIU immediately of any incidents of serious injury, allegations of sexual assault, or death involving their officers (Carter 2017).

An SIU investigation into the Hamilton police killing of Bayez was only initiated when the victim’s family contacted the unit a month after the crash. This is an unacceptable delay that further serves to interfere with any proper investigation. As judge Michael Tulloch put it is his report on oversight in Ontario: ”In most cases, the SIU depends on the police notifying it of incidents within its mandate. Prompt, thorough police notification is the starting point for effective, efficient SIU investigations. If the police take too long to notify the SIU of an incident, or fail to do so at all, any investigation may be compromised and justice may not ever be done” (quoted in Carter 2017).

Furthermore, the investigation is not even listed on a Hamilton police report of SIU investigations presented to the police board earlier in April 2017 (Carter 2017). Constable Steve Welton told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that the incident was included (despite saying he could not comment on the case and failure to report to the SIU). Oddly, according to the CBC, no vehicular death can be found in the police board report (Carter 2017). CBC News only became aware of the SIU investigation as a result of a freedom of information request listing all of the SIU’s investigations into Hamilton police officers from 2016 (Carter 2017).

As we have documented consistently in this project there is no proper independent oversight of police and no mechanism is used, legal or otherwise, to ensure there are any negative consequences for officers and police forces who fail to comply with investigative policy and requirements. Even where they violate or flaunt the law.

SIU spokesperson Monica Hudon told CBC News: “If the SIU Director is of the view that there may have been a breach of the regulation, and no charges are laid, it has been the Director’s practice to notify the Chief/Commissioner of his concerns in order that they may be reviewed” (quoted in Carter 2017). Of course the chief is under no obligation to act and it is unsure if such notice has even been given in this case.

André Marin, a former Ontario ombudsman and past SIU director, is clear in stating that under current conditions there is nothing to stop police from acting like this whenever they so choose. In his words: “Because there are no consequences, police can be extremely lax. They have proven themselves to be ungovernable” (quoted in Carter 2017).

Marin has a stark assessment of police services boards as well. In his view, while they could push for oversight:  “Police services boards should be vigilant and hold their feet to the fire — but they don’t care either. There is absolutely no excuse for this” (quoted in Carter 2017).

Again, the police are a law unto themselves. And the state always protects the state.

 

Further Reading

Carter, Adam. 2017. “Hamilton Police Broke the Law and there were No Consequences.” CBC News. April 25. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/hamilton-police-siu-1.4083410


Hamilton Police Do Not Bother Reporting Vehicular Killing to SIU as Required by Law

We have repeatedly commented on the lack of real, independent oversight of police agencies at all levels across Canada on this site. This relates both to the absence of true autonomy and independence but also to the lack of transparency within oversight agencies and their incapacity to hold police accountable for obstructing and blocking investigations, not cooperating with investigations, or violating policies and requirements for reporting incidents of harm to civilians.

Information secured by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) through access to information requests shows that police forces do not necessarily even report cases where their officers have killed a civilian. In this local case the Hamilton Police Service did not notify the province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), regarded as the “gold standard” for oversight of police globally, about a vehicular killing involving police in Hamilton in September 2016. The collision on September 3 killed a 20-year-old male, Chokha Bayez. Incredibly an investigation was only launched into the incident when the victim’s family approached the SIU almost one month after the crash.

SIU spokesperson Monica Hudon said in response to questions from CBC that the vehicle death listed in the FOI response was not publicized by the SIU simply because Hamilton police did not tell the agency about it. Yet all Ontario police services operate under a legal requirement to immediately notify the SIU of incidents of serious injury, allegations of sexual assault, or death of civilians in which their officers are involved. Furthermore the vehicular killing is not even listed on a police board report of SIU investigations presented at the Hamilton police board in April of 2017. Clearly the Hamilton Police Services view themselves as well above the law, as do police forces across the country. They are a law unto themselves as we have long known.

Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi has committed to publishing the details of every police-involved fatality dating back to 1990, when the Special Investigations Unit was established, as per the recommendations of the recent report on police oversight undertaken by Justice Michael Tulloch. SIU investigations are kept secret even from the families of victims. The Tulloch report also recommended that oversight agencies start collecting demographic data including race and religion, currently not maintained systematically in Canada. The report also recommended that oversight bodies release detailed reports whenever a police officer is cleared of wrongdoing. At the same time, police officers involved in deaths or serious incidents will not be identified unless they are charged, as is current, bad, practice.

 

Further Reading

Carter, Adam. 2017. “4 Times Hamilton Cops were Investigated for Sex Assault and the SIU Said Nothing.” CBC News. April 20.  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/siu-sexual-assault-allegations-hamilton-police-1.4077303

 


Family of Tony Divers, Hamilton Man Killed by Police, Raises Concerns Over Investigations into the Killing

The lack of effective and independent oversight of police is an ongoing issue in the Canadian context. This is true even where supposedly independent investigations units exist provincially. In every case investigations are impeded by police harassment, non-cooperation, and/or intimidation. In addition their is no mechanism to force police to comply with or adhere to investigation procedures. In many cases investigating agencies have connections with police forces, including dependence of police for their own training. This all means that there is no proper oversight of police in Canada and families are often doubly victimized, first by the taking of a loved one by police and then by a process that excludes them and lacks efficiency and transparency.

One issue being raised by families of victims of police killings in Ontario is with the slow pace of investigations and the lack of information provided publicly and to families. This has been a concern for the main police oversight body in the province, the Special Investigations Unit (considered the gold standard globally, which says plenty)

Growing attention and increasing public outcry in Canada over police killings of civilians has led to an independent review of police oversight in Ontario. One issue examined is the matter of public release of information from SIU investigations. The final report from Justice Michael Tulloch on police oversight in Ontario is slated to be released in March.

The family of Tony Divers (36) has been waiting for answers since their loved one was shot and killed by Hamilton Police on September 30, 2016. The family says it was told that forensics and toxicology work was done in December but it could still take several months several months before the SIU release any information about the investigation. Incredibly, in the meantime, Edward Divers, the victim’s brother, was arrested on an old warrant when he attended a Police Services Board meeting and raised questions about the killing of his brother. This has been viewed as a punitive act of harassment by police.

Police have said they were responding to a call when they targeted Divers. Yet no details have been released about the call or who made it. In addition police have claimed the victim had a gun, yet there is no evidence available that suggests any gun, or any other weapon, was present at the scene apart from police weapons. At least one witness has said that Divers did not have any gun at the scene.

The family says Divers was struggling with mental health issues at the time police killed him. The use of lethal force by police against people experiencing mental health crises has become a too common situation in Canada. So too is the stonewalling of family requests for basic information and insight into the police killings of their loved ones.

Karyn Greenwood-Graham, whose son was killed by Waterloo Police almost a decade ago, points to what she calls the “police culture” that dominates throughout the SIU. In her words: “What we have seen is a lack of support, a lack of respect, a lack of acknowledgement to the families who have lost a loved one, a son, a brother” (quoted in Bennett 2017). Greenwood-Graham organizes with the Affected Families of Police Homicide provides solidarity and support for families of victims of police killings of civilians

The slow process of investigations raises questions about transparency and credibility. It also leaves families in turmoil, harming their health and well being.

 

Further Reading

Bennett, Kelly. 2017. “Family of Man Shot by Hamilton Police Frustrated by SIU Decision.” CBC News. February 23. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/family-of-man-shot-by-hamilton-police-frustrated-by-wait-for-siu-decision-1.3996304


Hamilton Police Target Brother of Police Victim Tony Divers After He Criticizes Them

Police are vindictive. This characteristic of vindictiveness comes to the fore powerfully, along with other regulars secretiveness, defensiveness, and self-righteousness in situations where police respond to critics when they have killed someone. This vindictiveness was clearly on display on January 12 in Hamilton, Ontario when police arrested Edward Divers moments after he made a presentation at the Hamilton Police Services Board critical of police actions in the killing of his brother Tony Divers in September of 2016.

This vindictiveness is emphasized by the fact that Edward Divers was arrested on an 11-year-old warrant for a failure to appear. The use of failure to appear charges to criminalize people is a scandal in Canada where it is routinely laid against poor, homeless, and street involved people who may lack resources to ensure appearances at court appointed times or who have irregular schedules. Growing numbers of people are being detained solely on the basis of failure to appear charges. In the Divers case the Crown actively opposed his release but he was finally released on bail.

The family believes they have been specifically targeted by police. And any observer might well ask why and under what circumstances the police investigated Divers and came across the decade-old warrant. A reasonable conclusion is that they went searching for anything on Edward Divers knowing of his criticisms of police and intention to present at the Police Board meeting.

Divers has been living with sisters in Hamilton since October 2016, shortly after his brother’s killing. Despite this he was not arrested until he came forward to criticize police and made application to speak at the Police Board. Divers criticism ahs extended to the chief who he has suggested acts more like a politician than a human in addressing police use of lethal force.

Police Board member Councillor Terry Whitehead, justified police by saying blandly: “They have a responsibility to protect the public” (quoted in Bennett 2017). Yet it is not clear how the public is in need of protection for a failure to appear.

Divers’ sister, Yvonne Alexander described the operations police put in place to apprehend the failure to appear suspect. In her words: “They had police at every exit unbeknownst to us during the meeting. Then as soon as we walked over the threshold out of city hall, five cops arrested him. They wouldn’t tell us why” (quoted in Bennett 2017).

We can surmise that it had everything to do with a grieving brother simply daring to question a force that has killed his brother. And which is used to acting vindictively, viciously, with impunity. They do it because they can.

 

Further Reading

Bennett, Kelly. 2017. “Grieving Brother Criticizes Police, Gets Arrested on 11-Year-Old Warrant.” CBC News. January 13. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/grieving-brother-criticizes-police-gets-arrested-on-11-year-old-warrant-1.3934145