An inquest into the death of a black man at the hands of a Toronto police officer came to an end on Friday, with the jury deeming it a homicide, and delivering a broad range of recommendations to the city’s police force, including training officers on the inequities faced by racialized communities.
Unlike in a criminal proceeding, the finding of homicide in an inquest carries no legal weight — it simply means Andrew Loku died as a result of someone else’s conduct, family lawyer Jonathan Shime explained.
The training should address things like fear and inoculation techniques, social disparity, mindfulness techniques, de-escalation, visible and invisible disabilities and implicit bias and trauma enforced approaches, read the verdict.
Officers should be exposed “to the perspectives and lived experience of racialized communities, the Black community and individuals with mental health issues and/or addictions,” said the verdict, and be required to pass an exam about anti-black racism and persons in crisis, and re-attend the training if they fail.
Officers should be exposed “to the perspectives and lived experience of racialized communities, the Black community and individuals with mental health issues and/or addictions.”
After the coroner read their recommendations and as the jury left the room, friends and supporters of Loku broke into applause.
Among the other 39 non-binding recommendations were collecting race-based data, which would be made public and analyzed; equipping officers with less lethal weapons, like sock and beanbag guns, as well as protective equipment, like shields and helmets; allowing front-line officers to carry tasers; and training 911 operators to get more information during calls to enable them to start de-escalation process early.
Loku, shot and killed in the hallway of his apartment building by Const. Andrew Doyle, was a refugee from Sudan and a father of five. He had been kidnapped and tortured by rebels before he came to Canada, and diagnosed with PTSD. At the time of his death, he also had three times the legal driving limit of alcohol in his body.
Doyle and his partner Const. Haim Queroub arrived on scene in response to a call about a man threatening to kill someone and carrying a hammer. Doyle testified that he shot Loku as he was walking towards him, holding the hammer up, and refusing to drop it despite repeated commands from both him and his partner. The Special Investigations Unit, a police oversight body, ruled that the officer’s actions were justified, and thus never charged him.
“I appreciate that we’ve had far too many inquests and far too many recommendations over the corpses of people who didn’t need to die.”
Outside court after the verdict, Shime told reporters his feelings were mixed, reiterating a point he made in his closing statement that Loku did not have to die.
“I’m very sad, but on the flip side I’m very happy the coroner gave us a chance to examine what happened in this case,” said Shime. “The family was very eager to learn what happened to Andrew and the facts of what happened.”
What was the most “pleasing” about the recommendations was the jury’s willingness to look at the relationship between the police and the black community and the need to improve it, Shime said.
“While I appreciate that we’ve had far too many inquests and far too many recommendations over the corpses of people who didn’t need to die, the reality is these are important tools for us to figure out what we need to do better to improve, and i think in the long run they can make a difference.”