The police shooting of teenager Sammy Yatim in Toronto last week raises many questions about the police use of force/violence to maintain and/or enforce law and order in our nation. The popular video by an observer-citizen of the shooting does not help matters in terms of public confidence and trust in the police.
Why did the police officer who shot Sammy pull the trigger so fast? There appeared to be no emergency-threat to anyone, even though Sammy had a knife, nonetheless no one was reportedly close to him or in danger at the time of the shooting. Moreover, the fact that way too many shots were fired leaves the public worried about the excessive use of violent force by the police in this shooting. Why could the police not keep peacefully negotiating with Sammy and why could they not call in trained crisis personnel to negotiate in order to do everything possible to end the incident peacefully? What kind of training did the police officer have in resolving conflict situations peacefully? Violent force should only be used by police as a last resort after they have tried and failed at using all other peaceful method of resolving the situation. These and other questions need to be explored by the authorities who monitor and police the police.
In addition to this shooting, over the past weekend there have also been shootings by police in Alberta that also are cause of concern for the public.
I think that the society in which we live has evolved into a more violent one. I know the counterpoint of view is that crime rates, including violent crimes are down in numbers over the past year or two, yet looking at the mass media one wonders what the future holds. So many T.V. programs and Hollywood movies are obsessed with violence. It is far too often glorified and glamorized as the way to resolve differences and conflicts. Furthermore, many if not most of these shows and movies almost never focus on the long-term consequences of violent acts upon the spouses, families, friends and neighbours of the deceased victims.
There is "a higher way," and "a better way," the way of Jesus who taught us: "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12) However, he pressed the matter to the maximum for human beings in the pursuit of peace and non-violence by teaching us to: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven."
Such radical teaching and living can only lead to a more just, peaceful and non-violent society for everyone; and yes, to the fulfillment of what we pray in the Lord's Prayer: "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven." Believe it, practice it, and see what happens.