Two years ago, a black, mentally ill man named Andrew Loku was fatally shot by a Toronto police officer. The story is familiar because it has played out many times before. Information walls went up. Family members asked why their loved one had to die. Community groups decried another shooting of a black, mentally ill man. The officer involved was cleared of wrongdoing and there was limited explanation of the decision. Protest erupted.
About a week into protests of the Loku decision, Michael Cooke stopped me in the hall and asked where the Attorney General was in all of this, anyway. She was, after all, the sole person in Ontario with access to the full report explaining why no charges were laid. Until that point, our coverage had focused on the police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, and it was this new line of inquiry that really began to expose the systemic problems with police oversight — and that, a month after receiving it, the Attorney General had in fact not read the report.
With mounting pressure there was movement, including the release of a version of the Loku report — a first in the history of the SIU— and a review launched into police oversight in Ontario. That review has since recommended far greater transparency, far sooner, from police watchdogs.
These are, after all, often complex and even nuanced cases. I have just come from the ongoing coroner’s inquest into Andrew’s death, which is at last getting the public airing demanded in the wake the SIU decision more than a year ago. With every day of witness testimony, every video clip or 911 call released, there is greater information, and in turn understanding, about how and why someone died at the hands of police. It’s the least the public deserves.
Our project was built on a Star tradition of vigorously pursuing the information we all need to understand our world. For that I’d like to thank John Honderich and Michael Cooke. Irene Gentle’s unyielding vision was the heart of this project. On behalf of my colleagues, Jacques Gallant, Robert Benzie, Edward Keenan and Alex Ballingall, I’d like to thank the people who trusted us to tell their stories, including longtime advocates and families of people killed by police. This acknowledgment is theirs.