Tag Archives: racism

RCMP Assume Indigenous Man Having Stroke is Drunk: Inquest into Paul Kayuryuk Death

Between July 24 and July 27, 2017,  coroner’s inquest in Baker Lake, Nunavut, examined the death in jail of Paul Kayuryuk in October 2012 and concluded that police must “challenge assumptions” about intoxication in Inui communities. This after necessary medical attention was not provided Kayuryuk after RCMP jailed the man, who was having a stroke, on the assumption that he was drunk.

RCMP took Kayuryuk into custody after he was found unconscious at the landfill in Baker Lake.  Kayuryuk was observed overnight by three different guards and remained unconscious. It was only at midday the following day that a medical examination was ordered as a result of information received from the family. Kayuryuk was diabetic and the doctor and nurses at the local health center determined that he was experiencing a serious stroke. He was medivacked to Winnipeg but died there two weeks later from complications from the stroke.

Six jurors made 17 recommendations. Among them:

Cultural sensitivity training for officers and providing prisoners access to Inuktitut translators;  Seeking family insights and acting on the side of health care rather than presumed intoxication when in doubt.

Nunavut’s Chief Coroner Padma Suramala will present the recommendations to the RCMP who are under no obligation to observe them. This is one of several coroners’ inquests examining harm to Indigenous people by police with implications of racism and racist stereotyping of people seeking or in need of medical care.


Romeo Wesley Pepper Sprayed, Beaten Stepped On, Handcuffed by Cops: Death Ruled…Accidental

Romeo Wesley (34), of Cat Lake First Nation, died after being pepper sprayed, beaten, handcuffed, and stepped on by two police officers in his community’s nursing station in 2010. On July 20, 2017 the coroner’s inquest into his killing by police was released and concluded incredibly that his death was accidental. Now for most reasonable people if a civilian pepper sprayed, beat, restrained, and stepped on someone and they died it would not be viewed as an accident. Death would be recognized as a probability outcome of those actions being inflicted on someone.

Wesley had gone to the nursing station, in the community 400 kilometers north of Thunder Bay, concerned about shortness of breath and looking for help. A nurse there viewed his behavior as erratic (one would think acting erratically is not atypical for someone in medical distress) and called Nishawbe-Aski police.

The two officers who arrived pepper sprayed Wesley, tackled him onto the floor, beat him with a baton, and handcuffed his hands behind him. With police forcing him face down on the floor and with their boots on his head, neck, and back, Wesley stopped breathing. The inquest determined this to be an accident but we might reasonable ask if he would have died in the absence of this police assault.

None of the medical staff at the nursing station, including the doctor and nurses, did anything to help Wesley, perhaps fearful of police response if they tried. They only checked on him after he stopped breathing.

The coroner’s inquest, in a manner not unique in cases of police killing civilians, decided to blame the victim in their ruling. They found the cause of Wesley’s death to be “struggle and restraint (chest compression, prone positioning, handcuffing) as well as agitation and trauma (pain)….with acute alcohol withdrawal/delirium tremens.” Restraint, agitation, and trauma are all directly attributable to actions taken by the police officers. These were not accidents.

The jury made 53 recommendations. Some of them highlight systemic racism within government services in Indigenous communities (without actually naming racism). They include:

Cultural training courses for nurses before being placed in an Indigenous community.

Hiring medical staff and police officers who speak the language of the communities they serve.

Developing a protocol for police interventions in medical facilities within Indigenous communities.

Designating Nishnawbe-Aski Police Services as a police force under the Police Services Act in Ontario and thus providing for some civilian oversight.

 

By all accounts Romeo Wesley was a beloved member of the community and is missed by many. The community was hoping for much more from this inquiry.


Victim of Thunder Bay Police Identified as Marlon “Roland” Jerry McKay, 50-Year-Old Indigenous Man

The Thunder Bay police have garnered much notoriety recently over concerns of widespread racism on the force against Indigenous people in the area. Now the 50-year-old man who died in his cell while in custody of Thunder Bay police has been identified as Marlon “Roland” Jerry McKay. He died on July 19, 2017, after being arrested and detained for as yet unstated reasons. The victim’s family has confirmed that McKay, of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation 600 kilometers north of Thunder Bay, was in the city for medical reasons. Paramedics supposedly cleared him on health grounds before he was taken by police. The family has apparently been told by the coroner that McKay did not die of a heart attack. The Special Investigations Unit is examining the case.


The Death of Debra Chrisjohn: Racism and Police Violence Against Indigenous Women

Nearly a year after the death of Debra Chrisjohn in police custody, and even after the filing of charges against police officers responsible, Constable Mark McKillop of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Constable Nicholas Doering of the London Police Service, many issues remain unaddressed and unanswered about police actions in her arrest, detention, and death. Beyond the specific actions undertaken by police, the circumstances of Chrisjohn’s death raise issues of police racism and violence against Indigenous people and communities.

Debra Chrisjohn (39) of the Oneida Nation of the Thames was arrested on September 7, 2016. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, announced on July 13, 2017, that constables McKillop and Doeriing have been charged with one count each of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life. Both had contact with Chrsijohn on the day she died. The family has received few facts about the death of their loved one beyond this.

The family wants to know why the officers did not seek medical attention for their loved one when it became apparent that she needed help. Debra Chrisjohn’s father Robert Chrisjohn, asks: “Why didn’t the police take her to the hospital sooner when they knew she was sick and needed help? The police arrested her and were responsible for making sure she was okay. This happens way too often in our community. This happens all the time. The police just don’t seem to care” (quoted in McQuigge 2017)

Caitlyn Kasper, of Toronto’s Aboriginal Legal Services, claims that police had enough information available to deal with Debra Chrisjohn’s case in a different way. For example, police knew that Chrisjohn had a documented history of both substance abuse and mental illness. At the time of her arrest and detention on September 7, 2017, there were clear indications that Chrisjohn was in need of medical attention, not time in police custody

The family and community advocates insist that any discussion related to the actions of these officers in this case must address the troubling behaviors of police forces across Canada in dealing with Indigenous communities. This is, of course, an ongoing history of colonial violence and brutality. In the words of Caitlyn Kasper: “What happened to Debra is not an isolated incident. It is very obvious that it isn’t these types of issues just in London or the Oneida First Nation. It’s a concern we hear about in Toronto, all across Ontario and all across Canada” (quoted in McQuigge 2017)

.According to Kasper, the case against the officers must focus on what she terms the “foundational relationship” between police and Indigenous people across the Canadian state (McQuigge 2017). Kasper notes the ongoing questions of police responsibility in cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women, Many believe that police have been purposefully negligent in investigating those cases. Others suggest that police are themselves involved in the killings and disappearances of Indigenous women. Samantha Doxtator, a friend of the victim, has stitched together traditional moccasin vamps to commemorate Debra Chrisjohn and is sending them to be included in an art installation in memory of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada and the United States.

Giselle Dias, an area psychotherapist who has spent 25 years working for prisoners’ rights, insists it be acknowledged that Indigenous and marginalized communities are most impacted by the criminal justice system in Canada. She agrees that Chrisjohn’s death points fundamentally to the a systemic issue of over-policing and mistreatment within racialized communities (Ghonaim 2017). And she is rightly not optimistic about the court process offering any redress. In her words: “Just because these police officers have been charged, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be found guilty. I will not rest assured” (quoted in Ghonaim 2017).

In case after case this truth remains. The system protects itself and that includes protecting killer cops.

 

Further Reading

Ghonaim, Hala. 2017. “Family of Indigenous Woman Who Died in Police Custody Seeks Answers and Justice.” CBC News. July 13. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/london/family-of-indigenous-woman-who-died-in-police-custody-wants-justice-1.4204624

McQuigge, Michelle. 2017. “Charges Point to Police-Indigenous Tensions.” Sudbury Star. July 15. http://www.thesudburystar.com/2017/07/15/charges-point-to-police-indigenous-tensions

 


Charges Against Killer Cops Mark McKillop and Nicholas Doering in Death of Debra Chrisjohn

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the body that examines cases of police harm to civilians has announced that two police officers have been charged in the 2016 death of Debra Chrisjohn, of Oneida Nation of the Thames. The officers charged are Ontario Provincial Police Constable Mark McKillop and London Police Service Constable Nicholas Doering. The killer cops face charges of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessities of life, respectively. Chrisjohn, died while in police custody, only an hour after she was taken to hospital.

Details surrounding the death have not been made available and many questions remain to be answered. What has been said, though there has been no independent confirmation, is that London police were called to Trafalgar Street and Highbury Avenue North, a neighborhood in that city’s east end on September 7, 2016 for someone supposedly obstructing traffic. Chrisjohn was arrested by London police for the obstruction and then transferred to the Elgin County OPP detachment supposedly on an outstanding warrant from 2013.

The rest remains obscure, with the SIU refusing even to name a cause of death publicly. So far they have only been willing to offer that at some point on the afternoon of September 7, 2016, Chrisjohn was moved to a jail operated by the OPP. Chrisjohn was taken by paramedics from the jail to St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital at 7:52 PM. She was pronounced dead there at 8:43 PM.

Even family members have not been given toxicology results or been told details of their loved one’s death in custody. This is a stark situation given repeated calls for transparency in the SIU and its reporting system.

Constable Doering could face up to five years in jail, while Constable McKillop faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. It virtually never happens that a killer cop is convicted for their actions let alone receiving a maximum sentence. Both officers are still on duty. McKillop is on active duty with the OPP, while Doering is doing administrative duties

Members of the Oneida Nation of the Thames hope that these charges will bring some attention to the mistreatment of Indigenous women by police. Complaints have long been raised against various police services for inflicting extreme violence, including sexual violence, against Indigenous women.


Montreal Killer Cop Christian Gilbert Pleads Not Guilty: Killed Bony Jean-Pierre

Montreal police officer Christian Gilbert, who killed Bony Jean-Pierre (46) in April 2016, has pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge against him. Gilbert shot Jean-Pierre in the head with a plastic bullet during a raid. The killing of Jean-Pierre sparked an uprising in the Montreal North Neighborhood where the shooting happened. The charge against officer Gilbert represents only the ninth time since 1999 that an officer has been charged in the injuring or killing of a civilian in Quebec.

Gilbert was not present in court for the July 6, 2017 appearance.  His defence lawyer Isabelle Briand also informed the court that Gilbert wants a trial by judge and jury. Gilbert’s next court date is scheduled for August 29, 2017.


Inquest Rules Policing Killing of Andrew Loku Homicide, Highlights Anti-Black Racism

Andrew Loku (45), a refugee from South Sudan who suffered PTSD from experiences of torture, was shot and killed by Toronto police officer Andrew Doyle on July 5, 2015. On Friday, June 30, 2017, jury members in a coroner’s inquest into the killing ruled that his death was a homicide. Unfortunately, the Special Investigations Unit, the oversight body that examines cases of police harm to civilians had already decided, in March 2016, that Constable Doyle would not face criminal charges

The month long inquest headed by Dr. John Carlisle had gone beyond previous coroner’s inquests into police killings by actually addressing, at least in part, the role of racism in policing as influencing the actions of Constable Doyle and his partner Haim Queroub and contributing to their lethal use of force. During the inquest officer Doyle admitted to having almost no experiences interacting with Black men (Perkel 2017). Neighbors described Mr. Loku, a father of five, as a sweet man. Doyle and Queroub responded to him as something else. Lawyers argued that the officers’ fear of Black men contributed to their violent actions. It seems the inquest jury agreed.

 

The 39 Steps

The inquest jury made 39 recommendations which were read into the record by by coroner John Carlisle Among the recommendations are these:

Training police on implicit bias and anti-black racism.

Collecting race-based data, to be made public, and funding research to analyze the data.

Equipping police cars with less lethal means of force, including shields and helmets.

Allowing front-line officers to be equipped with Tasers.

Additional training for 911 operators to elicit more information during a call that can help aid in de-escalation.

 

Canadian Mental Health Association executive director Steve Lurie noted: “You have to pass a test on whether you know how to fire a gun, but you don’t have to pass a test on whether you know how to de-escalate” (quoted in Ghebreslassie 2017a).

The inquest ruling said that police officers should be exposed “to the perspectives and lived experience of racialized communities, the Black community and individuals with mental health issues and/or addictions.” Among the recommendations provided by the jury was that police be required to measure the effectiveness of training related to “anti-black racism and persons in crisis” through means of written and oral examinations. Officers should also be tested for implicit racial bia, and re-attend the training if they fail any of these.

Loku family lawyer Jonathan Shime said to reporters afterward that Andrew Loku should not have had to die for recommendations like these to raised and implemented. In his words: “To be frank, Andrew’s not here, and this whole inquest was necessary because somebody died and children are now without their father and sisters are now without their brother” (quoted in Ghebreslassie 2017a). This is the underlying truth in this.

On the whole the recommendations are not remarkable and some have been raised too many time before. They do not address the structural role of police and policing within state capitalist political economies and do not address their ongoing systemic measures as upholders of settler colonialism, white supremacy, and exploitation. But, that, of course will not be addresses through any state venue such as an inquest. The community groups and mobilizations around police racism and violence have shown the real possibilities for change and the necessity for change.

 

Institutional Racism and Police Violence

Observers of the inquest have commended the fact that finally an inquest has highlighted intersections between racialization, racism, mental health, and police violence. In Shime’s words: “The reality is a disproportionate number of black men are dying at the hands of police, and it’s time for that to stop. We need to reduce that to zero” (quoted in Ghebreslassie 2017a). As Shime and others have noted, the inquest made very clear that racism contributed to the police killing of Andrew Loku and officers did not need to use lethal force against him. The recommendations address, if insufficiently, issues of explicit, conscious, as well as implicit, subconscious, racism.

The inquest had heard how six people in the apartment complex had interacted with Loku ahead of the arrival of police. Neighbors said that they said they had been able to calm Mr. Loku down and that, in fact, he was about to hand over the hammer he was holding when the police officers charged onto the floor and confronted him (Perkel 2017). Within around 20 seconds of their arrival Constable Doyle fired twice, hitting Mr. Loku on the left side of his chest.

Shime argued that the officers panicked, in part because Andrew Loku was Black. In his words: “I don’t think Andrew needed to die. There were a number of failings with respect to the training and the handling of this situation that precipitated his death” (quoted in Perkel 2017). The issues go well beyond training of course.

Kingsley Gilliam, with the Black Action Defence Committee, identified systemic racism. In his words, following the inquest: “They recognized that anti-black racism, racism and institutional racism are problems and that racism permeates society” (quoted in Perkel 2017). Gilliam, went further, calling Loku’s death “an execution” (quoted in Perkel 2017).

Lawyer Selwyn Pieters, also with the Black Action Defence Committee, called out the stereotyping of Black men as aggressive and violent. In his words: “When you stereotype black people, particularly men that way, it is more likely to lead to very unfortunate outcomes for black men” (quoted in Perkel 2017). For Constable Doyle it seems that the stereotypes were all that he drew on in the encounter.

 

Black Lives Matter: Community Mobilization is Key

Pieters further said that there will be community mobilization if the recommendations of this inquest are not implemented. Clearly community members will we watching to see what happens with the recommendations. Pieters told reporters that the BADC wants to see all 39 of the inquest recommendations implemented within one year, along with those of an ongoing police oversight review by Justice Michael Tulloch, or there will be an active response. In the words of BADC member Kingsley Gilliam: “We are going to hold their feet to the fire” (quoted in Ghebreslassie 2017b).

The significant role of Black Lives Matter and other community organizers has to be acknowledged and lauded, both in initiating the inquest and in seeing issues of racism addressed. They also have to be lauded for broadly reframing public perceptions of policing in general. As Pieters suggests:

 

“There’s advocacy in the court and there’s street advocacy. You’ve seen Black Lives Matter were outside of police headquarters for two weeks to get this Loku inquest. I’m sure they’ll be watching this inquest with interest and they will respond appropriately if the recommendations aren’t implemented. They fought for this” (quoted in Ghebreslassie 2017b).

 

Friday’s ruling is not a criminal one, as the Loku family’s lawyer Jonathan Shime explained outside of the inquest Friday. In a coroner’s inquest, the word is used to mean a death was the result of someone’s action.

 

Further Reading

Coroner’s Jury Verdict. 2017. http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/3883244/Andrew-Loku-Verdict-of-Coroners-Jury.pdf

Ghebreslassie, Makda. 2017a. “Andrew Loku’s Police Shooting Death Deemed ‘Homicide’: Coroner’s Inquest.” CBC News. June 30. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/andrew-loku-inquest-recommendations-1.4185715

Ghebreslassie, Makda. 2017b. “’We Are Going to Hold Their Feet to the Fire’: Advocates Want Loku Inquest Recommendations in Place in 1 Year.” CBC News. June 30. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/andrew-loku-inquest-recommendations-1.4185715

Perkel, Colin. 2017. “Inquest Jury Makes Anti-Racism Suggestions in Police Killing of Black Man.” Winnipeg Free Press. June 30. http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/police-killing-of-andrew-loku-in-july-2015-in-toronto-ruled-a-homicide–431803453.html