Police officers deserve fair judgment, too

In the last two weeks, inquests into the deaths of several individuals at the hands of police officers have begun and once again

In the last two weeks, inquests into the deaths of several individuals at the hands of police officers have begun and once again the opportunity for me to write about the stigmas police officers are constantly faced with has arisen.

On Oct. 7, an inquest began into the death of Greg Matters who was killed in September 2012 after a lengthy confrontation with police outside his Prince George home.

On Tuesday of this week, an inquest also began into the deaths of Michael Eligon, Sylvia Kibingaitis and Reyal Jardine-Douglas.

The inquests come at a time where police all over the country are already under high scrutiny from the public. Since the death of Sammy Yatim, who was shot by police eight times, in July of this year people are even quicker than usual to criticize police.

As I already mentioned, this column is one I have debated writing several times. Until now, each time such a controversy involving police has arisen, I have declined to voice my opinions on the matter.

There is a reason I have been reluctant to write this column before. Police shootings, any controversy regarding police actually, hit rather close to home for me.

For 27 years, my dad strapped on a vest, carried a gun and wore a badge as a police officer with the Saskatoon City Police Service.

Dad, now retired, isn’t the only family member who has done so either. A little over a year ago, he pinned a badge onto the chest of my younger brother who is now following in Dad’s footsteps.

Fortunately, my brother has never had to fire his sidearm. However, I know that if he did, he would never do so lightly.

Of course, I know that not everyone who wears a police officer’s uniform has the same sober judgment as my brother. There are bad cops the same as there are bad teachers, bad reporters, bad politicians and bad everything else in the world. But, I can say with some certainty that the same attitude goes for the majority of police officers.

As such, I get annoyed at the comments I read online and hear in the news and elsewhere whenever a controversy involving police officers springs up. It seems that whenever such a case arises, people are all too eager to pin the blame on the officers and then complain loudly that the police are never adequately punished.

By no means am I saying officers involved are innocent. If it were as cut-and-dried as that, there would be no need for an inquest. The sad reality is, people are dead after interactions with police and I think that is evidence enough that, at the very least, something went wrong.

Nor am I saying these officers are guilty and examples of the ‘bad cops’ that make a bad name for people like my dad and brother and are constant sources of frustration for me. Just because something went wrong doesn’t mean it was the fault of the officers.

What I’m saying is, and I can’t stress this enough, is that I don’t know. And neither do you.

No one save the parties involved know what exactly happened in any of the incidents where individuals were killed by police. These are the people who will be called during the inquests and it will be the inquests that determine whether these officers are guilty or not.

As I do not have adequate information to pass judgment on any of these officers I intend to wait and see what the inquest uncovers. I would suggest that the general public do the same.