Published On Wed Jan 12 2011
Officer John Doe. Officer John Doe. Officer John Doe. Officer John Doe. Officer John Doe. Officer John Doe. Officer John Doe.
In the absence of actual names, these John Does could be any from among Toronto’s 5,000-plus uniformed police.
And that’s the unfortunate result of anonymity: A shadow of suspicion falling across everybody.
Dorian Barton claims he was viciously attacked by a half dozen cops during the police-initiated melee at the Queen’s Park G20 protests last June. He’s launched a $250,000 civil suit against both the Toronto Police Services Board and the as-yet unnamed officers, referenced in court documents as officers John Doe 1 through 7.
Officer Joe Doe 7 was not party to the alleged assault. This is the individual who later laid the charges — obstructing a peace officer and being involved in an unlawful protest — against Barton, although there appears to be no supporting paperwork. If such documentation existed, there would have to be a name for the arresting officer included. And that paperwork would presumably have led the Special Investigations Unit to identify him.
The charges against Barton were withdrawn by the Crown at his first court appearance last Aug. 23.
So, all that the 29-year-old had to show for his ordeal was a broken right arm, black eye, swollen limbs and bruised back — injuries suffered, Barton says, when he was blindsided without warning or provocation by a cop wielding a riot shield.
Here’s the now familiar refrain: There are pictures.
On Tuesday, the Star tried showing these photographs to Police Chief Bill Blair, via his media spokesman, Mark Pugash. Pugash was not receptive, accusing the Star of trying to perpetrate a “stunt’’. When the Star insisted on Pugash relaying the request to Blair, he did so, coming back later with a “No’’, explaining that it would be “inappropriate’’ for the chief to comment on purported evidence that will be part of an SIU investigation.
But the SIU didn’t have these photographs Tuesday.
The agency closed the book on Barton’s complaint nearly two months ago. His grievance was among six specific incidents of alleged police brutality the SIU investigated wherein they declined to lay charges against cops on the basis that either no supporting evidence was available or the purported offenders couldn’t be identified.
“It is unclear how the complainant received his injury or who caused them,’’ SIU director Ian Scott said at the time. “Accordingly, I cannot form reasonable grounds that a criminal offence occurred in the circumstances of this case.’’
It’s unknown whether the SIU then had any photographs or videotape of this particular episode as it happened. They will no doubt receive these new photos — which the Star obtained from Barton’s lawyers — on Wednesday or some time soon. A news conference by Barton’s legal representatives had been scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Barton says he was slammed, tackled and carted off by paddy wagon to a temporary G20 jail even as he pleaded for medical attention, his arm throbbing. Eventually delivered to hospital (handcuffed to a bed), he was prescribed three regular Tylenol and then returned to lockup, spending 30 hours in all in painful custody.
Barton’s subsequent complaint to the SIU was confirmed by an eyewitness friend who was interviewed by the agency. Four witness officers were questioned as well. That was apparently not considered substantial enough because Barton was unable to identify any of his alleged assailants.
But photographs did eventually emerge, courtesy of a shutterbug standing nearby who recognized Barton from a picture that ran in the Star and contacted him. Barton told the Star he is able to identify — by face — one of the officers in the images. Though this individual is clearly wearing both vest name and badge number on his epaulet, the Star has not been able to enhance those details sufficiently to make an ID.
His face should be recognizable, however, to colleagues and supervisors who know him.
What are the odds, you think, of somebody from among that gang coming forward to identify this Officer John Doe to the SIU?
And why should we, as civilians the Toronto Police Service is sworn to protect, continue to put our faith in an organization whose members duck accountability by protecting each other’s anonymity?
When no one’s responsible, everyone’s suspect.