In yet another episode of alleged unwarranted use of excessive force by the local police, a young skateboarder was violently arrested on the streets of Barrie, Ontario. This is the second such unfortunate instance of police brutality that has been reported following last month’s tragic death by suicide of a young man after he was arrested in Scarborough.
At a time when politicians and public health officials ought to be sensitive to communities to assuage their concerns and despair over the ridiculous and seemingly endless lockdown enforcement measures, incidents like these are not helping anyone’s case or cause. Unsurprisingly enough, it has prompted calls for the police officer involved to be fired and has once again reignited the debate over police funding in general.
There’s no doubt that this air of toxicity is stemming from the management and enforcement of the draconian lockdown and the reaction people have to it, not to mention the damaging mental health effects it is having on a vast number of them. According to a recent study, the number of Canadians having suicidal thoughts has quadrupled during the pandemic, raising concerns about the toll the outbreak is having on mental health.
With the likelihood of similar occurrences of excessive police force in future, it’s a no-win situation for police forces operating in Ontario and their badly battered image. The only good that can come out of this is Premier Doug Ford calling for a cease-and-desist order on the troubling Reopening Ontario act. While police officers should not be asked to arrest people for merely being outside, people should also attempt to keep their emotions in check and not be disrespectful to police who are under orders to do their job. Having said that, police officers – given their position of authority and power – are under the duty of care to serve and protect taxpayers and citizens. Therefore, they must read the room and exercise emotional intelligence and restraint when handling non-threatening situations like the ones in Scarborough and Barrie to prevent needless flare-ups in future.
Reportedly, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) will be conducting an investigation into the violent arrest. This is welcome news and a step in the right direction. As Barrie City Councillor Keenan Aylwin rightly noted, Canadian taxpayers expect nothing less than accountability and transparency from their elected officials and public servants.
No doubt, a swift, thorough and independent investigation into the incident will help allay citizens’ concerns and go a long way towards building trust and goodwill between the public and the police.