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Objective video footage of unlawful activities perpetrated by police officers are changing the “instant credibility” of a police officer’s badge on the stand, says Toronto criminal lawyer Kevin Hunter.
On Thursday, Ontario Superior Court judge Louise Botham found Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani guilty of assault with a weapon against G20 protester Adam Nobody in Toronto three years ago.
“It appears clear from the video recordings that numerous officers were involved in an aggressive takedown of Mr. Nobody, administering excessive blows while seemingly having enough control over him to effect an arrest in a more appropriate manner,” says Hunter, an associate with Edward H. Royle & Associates.
In today’s age of technology and instant flow of information, incidents between police and citizens are being recorded more frequently, says Hunter, providing more objective accounts of what actually happened.
In the past, he goes on to say, convictions against police in circumstances like this case presents, were not as likely to happen.
“When such recordings were not as prevalent, the court would hear the evidence of several police officers supported by their badge of instant credibility. That testimony would hold considerable weight from the onset by the nature of the officer’s position. In short, convictions against the police in those circumstances were rare,” says Hunter.
The guilty verdict sends a message to police that excessive force when arresting a suspect is unacceptable, says Hunter, and the fact they’re held to such high standards makes these forms of assault “clearly intolerable.”
“The court is making it clear that officers will be held accountable for their unlawful actions. This is especially true since, in an era of modernity, the public is watching and recording,” says Hunter. “This is a lesson the police should have learned ever since the infamous Rodney King arrest in Los Angeles.”
“However, the value of these types of recordings is not only limited to a condemnation of unlawful police conduct. It can also be used to exonerate the police in the face of false allegations of misconduct or accurately corroborate the observations made by police regarding the criminal conduct of accused persons.”
The verdict also signifies the need for more police training with respect to public order incidents, adds Hunter. The G20 incident was, “certainly not a routine police/public event. It was a rare affair in which tensions were running high in dynamic and fluid circumstances. It was a difficult situation for which to provide adequate training given that replicating the conditions would have been very difficult. I hope in light of the verdict and the criticism levied toward how the police generally handled the G20, that the police have implemented more specific training to handle the next major public order incident, which will inevitably come in a major city like Toronto.”