It is extremely rare for police officers to be so much as charged in any case where they kill a civilian. Where they are charged it us usually for a lesser associated offense. Convictions for any offense related to killing civilians are obviously even less common. On January 27, 2017, a rare conviction of a killer cop was arrived at in a Québec court for a killing almost five years earlier. François Laurin, an officer with Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force was found guilty of dangerous driving causing death in the killing of 25-year-old Éric Rompré.
Officer Laurin was responding to an emergency call on June 16, 2012 when his speeding vehicle slammed into another car on Highway 148 near Papineauville, Québec. The victim in the crash was Éric Rompré the driver of the car hit by Laurin. The officer was travelling at the extreme speed of 180 km/h when he crashed into the victim’s vehicle. Incredibly the dire matter of great public safety and security that had Laurin travelling at such dangerous speed was meeting a colleague on the force to help transport an intoxicated person at Rockfest in nearby Montebello. The Crown in the case questioned why Laurin felt the need to travel at such a high speed for a call of that banal nature.
Laurin’s lawyers tried a common, and often successful ploy, in cases where an officer is actually charged with an offense. They attempted to have the trial set aside because of delays between the filing of charges and the start of court proceedings. In the Canadian context prosecutors have seen the commencement of trials for police stalled leading to the dropping of charges.
Police should not be called to deal with people in personal distress or experiencing mental health issues. This is becoming increasingly clear to many as such situations almost inevitably seem to end with the distressed person being killed by cops conditioned to expect the worst in everyone or trained to act on a “comply or die” basis in which any affront to their authority is grounds for immediate execution. Police forces across Canada are killing people experiencing distress on a regular basis. And so often they do so in cases where the distressed person is confined to an indoor setting posing no possible threat to the public. And usually no health care support personnel (doctors, nurses, caregivers, counselors, etc.) are involved.
On Thursday, October 6, 2016, Sûreté du Québec (SQ) police officers shot and killed 29-year-old Danny Lafrance-Godmer during a police invasion of a home on Saint François Xavier Street in Montebello, Québec. Police were apparently responding to a call about a man in distress. They entered the home, eventually going into the attic where they encountered the man identified now as Danny Lafrance-Godmer. It is not clear why, given that police knew Lafrance-Godmer to be in distress and confined to an attic space where he posed no possible threat to the public, the force did not arrange for health care providers to be present to communicate with the man. Instead police engaged the victim immediately and shot him, killing him.
Few details have been released by the bureau des enquêtes indépendentes du Quebec (BEI), the relatively new agency that investigates cases of injuries or death involving police in the province. The bureau has assigned nine investigators to examine the case but has a curious policy of relying upon other police forces should they determine they need additional support. In this case they have said they will call upon the Montréal police. This raises real questions about the independence, autonomy, and, finally, legitimacy of any investigation undertaken under such circumstances.