From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor's rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own. Carl Schurz

Friday, December 13, 2013

"It's part of my job"

Yesterday the Ontario Court of Appeal stayed a conviction against a man saying “the conduct (of Toronto police) in this case might well be characterized as ‘torture’ under the Criminal Code."

When Singh was questioned in an interrogation room by Det.-Const. Jamie Clark and Det. Steve Watts, he denied involvement in the robbery and denied knowing Maharaj. The testimony of Singh and Maharaj on what happened next was not contested by the Crown or the police and the court considers it to be “the factual framework for what actually happened,” wrote (Justice) Blair.
“Clark responded violently to these denials. He struck the appellant on the back of the head five or six times and kneed him in the ribs once or twice.” wrote Blair. The attack lasted two minutes.
The two officers left, and a third playing the role of the “good cop” came in. “Make sure (you have) something to say or else they’re coming back,” Det. Donald Belanger said.
When Clark and Watts returned, Singh said he was ready to talk — but continued to deny he had anything to do with the robbery.
This time, Clark “grabbed the appellant’s neck, squeezing his throat and slamming his head against the wall. He said to the appellant: “ ‘This is what it feels like when you wave guns in people’s faces.’ ”
Singh testified that he couldn’t breathe and was close to blacking out when Clark let go. Clark continued to punch him on the back repeatedly; when Belanger came back into the room, Singh was crying; “tell them something, tell them anything or else they’re going to come back,” Belanger told him.
Minutes later, Watts and Clark briefly brought Maharaj to the door of the interrogation room. Maharaj testified that Singh looked like he had been in a fight.
When Watts and Clark returned, Clark told Singh that his alleged accomplice had implicated him in the robbery.
When Singh continued to deny involvement, Clark began to beat him again on his back and head. He varied between an open and closed fist. Singh “testified he was in such pain at the time that he felt he could not go on and began to beg the officers just to kill him,” wrote Blair.
In a display of the utter banality with which many cops in this city go about violating the civil and human rights of those they deem unworthy of even a modicum of human decency: "Clark returned alone, an hour later. “I am sorry for what I did to you. It’s part of my job,” he told Singh, then gave him a bottle of water, a chicken sandwich and a towel."

As the court noted  while TPS says they carried out a thorough investigation we do not know if any discipline was meted out for the officers' conduct.

Singh partner received much the same treatment but unlike Singh he had his charges dropped before trial:

Watts — playing good cop this time — later told Maharaj he should make a statement because, if he did not, Watts would not be able to protect him from Belanger and Clark. Maharaj testified that he agreed to make a statement in fear of another beating. If he made the statement, he was told to say he did not want counsel.

Beyond the obviously illegal conduct of the cops here we must also ask what of Singh's trial judge who while decrying police conduct here as “reprehensible”  went on to say it did not affect the fairness of the trial, however she then gave Singh a years credit at sentencing for the abuse he received.

This raises two questions well actually three, firstly why given virtually the same set of circumstances did one see his charges dropped while other was forced to trial where he was convicted and imprisoned. Secondly WTF goes on in the trial judge's mind that she could find Singh's abuse as NOT impacting of his rights but only in the most cursory of fashions.

Thirdly and perhaps most importantly Just what does it take for cops in this country to be held to account for their illegality. If it didn't occur in this case when will it ever happen.


  1. Perhaps the sharpest indictment of the true state of Toronto policing, Kev, is the fact that the officers involved not only faced no consequences for their egregious misconduct but two received promotions. Belanger was promoted to staff sergeant, and Clark is now a sergeant. So much for the good chief's lofty rhetoric about holding his officers to account.

    1. What Lorne said Btw I grew up in one of Toronto's poorest neighborhoods and can personally attest that this is normal behavior and has been so since the dawn of time