Toronto’s police union chief condemns anti-police rhetoric in column

WATCH: Toronto’s police union president is condemning anti-police rhetoric, but critics say he’s unfairly painting broad strokes. Mark Carcasole reports.

TORONTO – Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack says anti-police sentiment is putting the lives of police officers at risk.

“Officers around the world face increasingly widespread criticism, rush to judgement and trial-by-media, as anti-police rhetoric reaches a fever pitch,” McCormack wrote in a column that appeared in the Toronto Sun on Monday.

McCormack’s comments come just two days after two New York Police Department officers were fatally shot in their squad cars in what city officials are calling an assassination.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of negative police rhetoric that’s going on, stuff that’s been posted on social media, inflammatory comments around policing that really isn’t helping the dialogue or the narrative around policing or any policing issues,” he said during an interview Monday.

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The slayings happened during a tense time for law enforcements across the United States. Police have been heavily criticized for months for their tactics, following Eric Garner’s death in a New York officer’s chokehold and Michael Brown’s fatal shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

Protests erupted in recent weeks after grand juries declined to charge the white officers involved.

“The thing that bothers me the most is that all the protesters have been asking for this entire time, and the protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, is that they hold police accountable for their actions and that’s all they’ve been asking for,”  former Ward 2 candidate Andray Domise said in an interview Monday.

“When we have people here peacefully asking police to hold themselves to account for the way they treat the people they are policing, all of a sudden that’s anti-police and dangerous rhetoric.”

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Police in Toronto haven’t been free from criticism. Hundreds of people protested peacefully following the shooting death of Sammy Yatim in July.

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Constable James Forcillo is currently awaiting trial on attempted murder and murder charges in connection with the shooting.

“We’re not perfect, we get things wrong at times, but that’s about process and procedure, that’s about following up, whether it’s before the courts or whatever, for police officers’ actions,” McCormack said.

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But the current rhetoric is different, he said. He said he’s not trying to curtail freedom of speech and is far more concerned about people in positions of authority who label police “the enemy” or compare law enforcement to “Ebola or Al-Qaida.” He said any criticism of police should happen in the “proper places” and not social media.

“The proper channel is speaking your damn mind,” Domise said. “We have a right to free speech in this country and if we feel the police are not serving our interests, and our needs, we should say so. Proper channels apply to people who are within the police organization.”

McCormack recently demanded Alok Mukherjee, the chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, resign after a post on Facebook seemed to do just that; compare police to ISIS and Ebola.

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While Mukherjee had said he was only trying to start a discussion about policing, McCormack said Mukherjee “crossed a line” and showed “clear bias.”

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Police officers across the United States have been told to be on high alert, wear their bulletproof vests and avoid making inflammatory posts on social media in the wake of the shootings.

McCormack hasn’t gone that far in warning police officers in Toronto but has advised them to be “hyper-vigilant.”

Investigators say the gunman involved in the deadly NYPD ambush had a long criminal record and a hatred for police and the government.

On Saturday afternoon, Ismaaiyl Brinsley approached a squad car from behind in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighbourhood and fired four shots, killing Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu before killing himself in a nearby subway station.

With a file from The Associated Press

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