Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Toronto Cop accused of Sammy Yatim murder on TTC back on job
The decision to have Const. James Forcillo return to duty — after a seven-month suspension with pay — was made by Chief Bill Blair.
Although the 14 Division officer’s second-degree murder charge in the 18-year-old’s death is still before the courts, Toronto Police say Blair decided to bring Forcillo back to work in an administrative role with Crime Stoppers several months ago.
“The chief, using his discretion, made the decision to lift his suspension and since February he has been assigned to administrative duties here at headquarters,” spokesman Meaghan Gray confirmed Wednesday. “He is not in uniform and his job does not require any use-of-force options.”
She said returning suspended officers to work in a reduced capacity while they still face criminal charges is “not an anomaly,” but she was unable to say exactly how often it happens.
“The chief does have discretion in these types of situations,” Gray explained. “All aspects are considered thoroughly and a decision is made in the best interest of the service, the public and the officer in question.”
She wasn’t able to elaborate on why the decision was made in Forcillo’s case.
But the accused officer’s lawyer, Peter Brauti, said new information came to light that led management to return him to administrative duties.
Yatim was shot shortly after midnight July 27, 2013, as he stood on a Dundas St. W. streetcar waving a knife around — just minutes after he allegedly threatened TTC passengers.
An officer, allegedly Forcillo, repeatedly ordered Yatim to drop his weapon, then warned him not to take another step forward before firing three shots that dropped the teen to the floor.
Several seconds later, another six rounds were fired at Yatim. It’s believed eight of the nine bullets struck their mark.
The shooting was captured on video and posted online, prompting public outrage.
Even the chief seemed troubled by the footage when he spoke to media a few days after the shooting.
“I am very aware that the public is very concerned about this tragic event,” Blair said at the time. “They have every right to be concerned.”
The chief also promised Yatim’s family — and all of Toronto — he would get answers to their many questions.
“As a father, I can only imagine their terrible grief and their need for answers,” Blair said. “We will commit to doing our best to ensure that those answers are provided.”
A close friend, who spoke for the family in the wake of the shooting, tried unsuccessfully to reach the Yatims for reaction Wednesday.
Joseph Nazar was out of the country and had just returned to the city, so he didn’t know if the family was aware Forcillo is back at work.
But he was stunned by the news and said it didn’t matter that Forcillo was not currently in uniform or armed.
“This is a betrayal by the police chief,” Nazar said. “This officer is charged with murder and he’s working in a police station?
“If this is true, we’re not going to sit quiet about it,” he added.
It was Blair who actually decided to suspend Forcillo three days after the shooting, several weeks before Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit charged the officer.
At the time, Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack criticized the suspension prior to charges as “not ordinary.”
But the police union boss “fully” supports the chief’s decision to lift Forcillo’s suspension.
“We encourage management to find meaningful work for suspended officers when possible, as long as any risk has been mitigated,” McCormack said. “And it actually happens quite frequently.”
He said it’s good for the officers, the service and taxpayers.
“Don’t forget he hasn’t been convicted of any offences,” McCormack said. “These are unproven allegations for an incident that occurred in the performance of his duties.”
Forcillo will be back in court Thursday for the continuation of his preliminary hearing, which will determine if he stands trial. If so, he would be the first Toronto cop to ever stand trial for an on-duty murder charge.
McCormack pointed out another officer who was accused of murder in 2012, Const. David Cavanaugh, had his charge “kicked out at the prelim.”
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