It’s a tough call for police. They get an urgent phone call about a man with a weapon, rush to the scene, and almost immediately spot someone that could be their suspect. They act quickly, and forcefully, but then find out the suspect is actually an innocent by-stander. Should police hesitate, and perhaps ask a few questions first?
That question is at the centre of a $5 million lawsuit launched against the Toronto police service this morning.
“Let me go. Let me go. Let me go. Please! Ahhh !” 21 year old Sandokh Bola was clearly terrified. The intellectually disabled man was on his way to help his grandfather in the family store when police descended, apparently, on the wrong guy.
“Administering street justice is the opposite of a society based on laws.” said lawyer Michael Smitiuch.
And in the view of Sandokh’s family, these law enforcement officers went too far.
“We need to set an example. There are people out there who are dealing with this, and they continue to and it’s just swept under the rug. And it can’t be. These people need to be held accountable.” said Sandokh’s sister, Sonia.
When Sandokh Bola was arrested in an Etobicoke parking lot 17 days ago he appeared to be the subject of a rough, police takedown. But Toronto police services says the video doesn’t tell the whole story.
“The officers, minutes before had received an urgent 9-1-1 call. One of the most serious, urgent calls we get, for a man with a knife.” said Mark Pugash
But Bola’s lawyer says the cops were far too aggressive.
“We’re in a day now where you can’t even card someone, Let alone go up and conduct yourself in the manner they conducted themselves in this fashion.” said Bola’s lawyer, Ken Byers.
“There are very few people who want to be arrested and who agree to be arrested and so it’s not like TV. It sometimes can get a little messy with pushing and shoving.” said Pugash.
Bola’s lawyers say police did far more than push and shove. They claim the cops hit their client at least 20 times.
The family says Bola was stuffed in a cruiser, then let go without any charges or an apology. When they went to complain about his treatment they say, there was no sympathy:
“Actually at a point one of the officers told us to leave the station because he didn’t appreciate how we were feeling. He actually told us to get out of the station.” said Sonia.
None of these accusations has been proven in court. Police say the office of independent police review, will conduct an investigation to determine whether the takedown was excessive, given what police knew at the time.
But should this $5 million lawsuit proceed ? “We will defend it and when it’s appropriate we will file a statement of defence that will explain our position.” said Pugash.