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G20 Police Accused of Assault...Again!

'Strikingly Similar' Pattern Alleged in Non-G20 Related Incident

by Geordie Gwalgen Dent

Toronto Police officers
Toronto Police officers

Toronto - Two Toronto Police officers implicated in the assault of a G20 protester are also being accused of police brutality in an unrelated incident.

Abbas Jama of Toronto is claiming that constables Luke Watson and Todd Storey assaulted him during his arrest for weapons possession.  The same constables have also been accused of assault by G20 protester Adam Nobody. 
Jama was arrested in June 2009 and is currently before the Ontario Superior Court facing 9 charges including possession of a firearm with ammunition and failure to comply with a probation order. 
On January 4th, his defence lawyer, Mike Leitold, asked Justice Rob Clark to order Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to release all documents pertaining to Nobody's allegations against the officers.  Leitold argued that the records could show "a pattern of police brutality in a strikingly similar method...a pattern of being cuffed, face-down and kicked, as my client alleges and as Mr. Nobody did."
“What we have before us, I would submit, is a strikingly similar back pattern, involving the same officers and a person in custody,” he said. 
Nobody claimed that after being assaulted and detained by Toronto Police Service (TPS) officers, constables Watson and Storey took him away from the view of cameras and beat him. 
The SIU, which investigates complaints of police brutality in Ontario, has charged one officer with assaulting Nobody and investigated thirteen others including Watson and Story.  Watson and Story were not charged because the SIU said they could not find any video, testimonial or injury-based corroborating evidence to back up Nobody's claims.  
In response to Leitold's motion, five other prosecutors representing the Crown, SIU, TPS and Chief of Police opposed releasing the documents.  SIU spokesperson Frank Phillips stated the SIU opposed the release of documents due to their standard practice of "confidentiality" while lawyers for the prosecution argued that the Nobody files were not relevant given that the officers were not charged due to a lack of corroboration.  Tom Schrieder, one lawyer for the prosecution, argued that charges could not be laid against the officers without corroboration, a claim that Justice Clark challenged noting that charges are commonly laid in domestic abuse cases without corroboration.  
On January 7th, Clark granted Leitold's motion ordering the TPS and SIU to hand over all records "arising indirectly from the complaint by Adam Nobody” for comparison to Jama's allegations.
The case against Nobody has garnered heavy public attention due to the media attention, clear video evidence and charges being brought against one officer.
However, the theme of police brutality by Toronto Police Services has not been highlighted.
The Toronto Star recently investigated the 20-year history of SIU investigations finding that out of 3400 investigations, criminal charges were only laid in 95 of them, only 16 officers were convicted and only 3 saw jail time.  A stinging report by Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin in 2008 also highlighted major problems with the SIU which included a lack of investigative power and a cozy relationship with the police officers they investigate.
Allegations against Toronto Police Services police including assault, theft, illegal detention, kidnapping and sexual assault were common during the G20.  
Outside of the summit several accusations against police have surfaced in the last year.  
Const. David Cavanagh was charged by the SIU with manslaughter in the death of Eric Osawe who was fatally shot after a TPS tactical unit burst into his apartment last September.  Osawe, 26, is the same age as Jama.  The thirteen other officers present have not been charged.
The period between April and October, 2010 saw five men in addition to Osawe killed by the TPS. Two of the victims were 18 years old and two were schizophrenic.  
On November 20th, a TTC rider claimed Special constables beat him in a TTC subway closet.  A number of irregularities have popped up in the investigation of the case while the officers names have not been released.
Meanwhile, accusations were also made against higher ranking officers in 2010.
March saw the postponement of hearings against former Toronto Police intelligence unit leader Steve Izzett.  Izzett was removed from his post in 2008 when he was accused of oppressive behaviour, sexual harassment, lying to an investigation and destroying evidence. 

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