An excerpt from

When Police Kill: Police Use of Force in Montreal and Toronto
by Gabriella Pedicelli

Between 1987 and 1993 there were many deaths under questionable circumstances caused by the police in Montreal and Toronto. This provoked much public controversy regarding police abuse, Many citizens are fearful of the police who, they fear, can no longer be relied on to serve and protect. It is as a consequence of these conflicts that I have become passionately concerned with the issues surrounding the police, and more specifically, the legitimacy of their mandate which permits the use of deadly force and killings.

I developed these sentiments towards the police as a young adult. In my first year of high school I decided that I wanted to become a police officer. Why? It may have been that I did not know what I wanted to do, and initially the police technology program seemed to be interesting. In my mind I believed that I was not going to be just any cop; not the cops my friends and I were constantly confronting as teenagers, not the ones who emptied our beer out into the sewer when we drank in the park, or who periodically cornered us and wrote down our names and addresses in their notebooks, or who would watch the pool hall where we hung out from across the street just to intimidate us. I was going to be a good cop, one who understood what it was like to be intimidated and harassed needlessly. And so there it was - I had established the false ideal that I would be different from the other officers and that I could make a positive difference. I now realize it was na•ve and wishful thinking.

In September 1985 I began the police technology program at John Abbott College in Montreal and breezed through. Not that this was difficult since the program consisted of memorizing verbatim the various lists of procedures, rules, regulations and the all important steps and phases. Knowledge was reduced to lists and step-by-step processes. I cannot recall any police course which attempted to direct students to deal with the public compassionately, or to sensitize them to cultural and economic diversities. It was at this stage that my not so rude awakening occurred, due to the course content, the professors' dogmatic attitudes, and students' eagerness to apprehend criminals. I came to the realization that it would be impossible for me to be any different from the force because of my inability to follow the rules and regulations, or I would be assimilated into the policing culture and become one of them. It was the thought of becoming one of them which caused my to abandon policing.

Once I successfully completed the three year college program, I decided to follow through on the ten week training at the Nicolet police academy. Why? At that point I knew that I no longer wanted to become a police officer but felt that it would be useful to attend to understand what the practical training involved. Although the three years I spent at the college and at the training academy could, at first glance, be considered a waste of time, I learned a tremendous amount concerning the policing institution and the way it really functions. Cowboy attitudes, from both the instructors and the cadets, were more pronounced at the academy than at the college. The tightly structured military lifestyle only reaffirmed the authoritarian nature of policing. Students who stepped outside the military-style boundaries received negative sanctions. After twelve sanctions a student is expelled; I managed to receive eleven. They were given to me for, among other things, not sufficiently shining my shoes, neglecting to wear my name tag, having a crease in my shirt, having a hair in my sink, having a hair rest on my shirt collar, and having a thumb print on my hat visor, We were only taught the crime fighting model of policing, of firearms training, high speed cases, self-defence, search and seizure, handcuffing, properly stopping vehicles, and safety measures when answering calls.

When an officer kills it is the ultimate manifestation of police power. I was interested in studying these killings, especially in relation to police accountability. I have come to understand police power as an immense and insurmountable entity which theoretically exists to protect but which may ultimately oppress. The purpose of this book is to inform. Since information regarding police abuses is mot readily accessible using either the police system or the media, I have compiled the information in a concise and inclusive form to be used as a tool and resource guide to promote public awareness about, and action against, these injustices. It is important for people to act to change the status quo of police violence in our communities. The material here is basic to understanding how and why that violence occurs and is publicly sanctioned.

The book begins by discussing the false premises of policing, and traces its inception in England, the United States and Canada. The constraints placed on police officers in the Criminal Code of Canada concerning the use of force, as well as police discretion which can ultimately lead to certain groups being negatively targeted by police, are then enumerated. The role of the media in providing information to the public regarding situations of police abuse is examined. Specific cases involving deaths caused by police in Montreal and Toronto between 1987 and 1993 are discussed, and are followed by an in-depth analysis of the Allan Gosset case. The organizational changes implemented by police institutions in Ontario and Quebec as a result of the killings and an evaluation of their effectiveness are outlined. The conclusion presents options for citizen-initiated action designed to change the current situation.