Saunders responds to criticism over handling of Loku case

Written for the Et Cetera.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders has a few words for Tony Loparco and other critics.

Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Director Tony Loparco’s recent report on the shooting death of Andrew Loku in July of last year criticized the Toronto Police Service for one non-witness officer’s attempt to access, download and review a video of the incident – provoking a few raised eyebrows over the possibility of tampering with evidence in an ongoing investigation.

“Following the shooting, a non-witness officer saw fit to attempt to review and download the video recordings captured by cameras … where the shooting occurred. I have not as yet heard an adequate explanation for the officer’s conduct,” Loparco wrote.

He said the residents of the building where the footage was captured were the first to reprimand TPS.

“The issue of the police improperly accessing the video and concerns about ‘gaps’ in the video were brought up by residents at the building,” the report read.

Saunders shot back Monday afternoon in a press release, saying that the officer in question was only doing his job.

To make his point, he quoted Ontario laws regarding police conduct  which state “The Chief of Police shall ensure that, pending the SIU taking charge of the scene of the incident, the police force secures the scene in a manner consistent with all standing orders, policies and usual practice of the police force for serious incidents.”

“Our officers have a legal onus to fulfill this responsibility. This includes the necessity to secure video evidence,” said Saunders in the release.

The chief also took the opportunity to quell any doubts about the integrity of the evidence, saying that the SIU’s own forensic examination “states that no tampering took place.”

Black Lives Matter activists say that Loku's case proves the need for police transparency. (Wikimedia Commons)

Police were called to an apartment building on Gilbert Avenue last July after receiving a call saying that a man was armed and threatening to kill the caller’s friend.

When officers arrived, reports say they ordered the man to drop the weapon, and that the man continued moving towards them with the hammer raised when one officer shot the man in the chest.

Loku died before being taken to the hospital.

The handling of Loku’s case has also drawn reproach from activist group Black Lives Matter, who say that cases like Loku’s illustrate the need for greater transparency between police and the public.