Dear Mayor Tory,
I am writing to express my disgust with the handling of the horrific beating of Dafonte Miller by Michael and Christian Thierault last December.
There are so many questions we need to ask. The answers to all of them point to cover-ups and corruption within the Toronto Police (I have typed the word ‘incompetence’ several times, but always deleted it. Suggesting incompetence lets those responsible off the hook far too easily. They knew what they were doing, every step of the way. Incompetence does not last this long, on this many levels.)
How could Michael Theirault be allowed to return to work after an incident like this? How could it take four months for the SIU to even become aware of this case? I am not holding my breath for a reasonable explanation—there’s been too much obfuscation at this point. Toronto Police Services’ boldness is astounding.
There is no way to get around it: two grown men decided to beat up a black youth walking by their house. One of the perpetrators was someone who had sworn to “serve and protect” the people of this great city. He should have been fired the next day.
Then there’s the fact that Michael and Christian’s father also works for TPS, in the unit tasked with “supporting professionalism…[including] the conduct, appearance, ethics & integrity of its members to strengthen public confidence.” It is hard to swallow; imagining a father who wouldn’t take an active interest in making sure his sons received gentle, careful treatment. Even if their father had no involvement in the cover-up, you must concede that the optics of this are exceptionally bad, and serve to erode any trust in the process and the force as a whole. But I don’t think any of us imagine their father stood idly by.
Finally, there’s the matter of the Police Services Board, which is accountable to the public, and is meant to act in the best interest of the public, but which does not want to hear from the public about what actually concerns them about policing in Toronto.
Desmond Cole is a gift to this city as it strives to be better, to live up to the “Diversity our strength” slogan it loves to tout. He is an uncomfortable gift for those in power, because he is on the side of truth and justice, and he is not afraid to speak loudly about the systemic racism that is clearly and obviously on display. The bullying and silencing he endured at the Toronto Police Services Board meeting on July 27 shows just how much TPS fears his important message.
There are a number of members of TPS who I know personally and trust emphatically, as individuals. But as a whole, TPS is not an organization citizens can deem trustworthy. There have been indications of this in the past, but the many troubling aspects of this particular case bring this feeling to the forefront.
When Chief Saunders talks about “transparency and trust,” I wonder if he knows that either of those terms mean, and how they are gained. Does he really think TPS can shrug off the optics of this situation, if nothing else? (I regret that I ask such a cynical question, pointing to how things look rather than how they are in the hopes of garnering some change. I hope you’ll take it as a sign of just how low TPS has sunk in many of our estimations.)
Dafonte Miller has been the victim of extreme police brutality, of being falsely charged on that same night, and of having justice delayed and denied, while his perpetrators were protected. He is a teenager, and a racial minority and a victim, and he has been failed over and over again. It is essential that the layers of wrongdoing be acknowledged, and that those who tried to keep this case out of the public eye be held accountable. It is a disgrace to see Toronto Police working to serve and protect their own with such rigour, rather than the public.
I look forward to hearing from you Mayor Tory, and from members of the Police Services Board, about this case.
Jacqueline Whyte Appleby