Two Toronto police officers are facing temporary demotion after admitting to misconduct related to their role in the arrest of a Black University of Toronto student who was arrested, hit with a stun gun and kneed in the neck in a case of “mistaken identity.”
The case, his family has told media in the past, highlights the disproportionate use of force levelled against Black people and ongoing racial profiling by Toronto’s police force.
In August 2021, the officers were looking for a suspect with a “somewhat similar” description to Hasani O’Gilvie’s when he was stopped while he was walking in a plaza in north Toronto, according to an agreed statement of facts.
“A young Black man was walking to school, U of T, when he was stopped by Sgt. Saliba, who was looking for someone else. He said who he was, but she didn’t believe him. She drew her Taser and escalated the situation,” lawyer David Shellnutt said.
The 27-year-old denied he was the suspect and verbally identified himself but he was still thrown to the ground and shot with a stun gun five times, according to the statement.
“He’s showing signs of healing, but he’s certainly receded more into himself immediately after the incident,” said O’Gilvie’s mother, Christine Christine Stought-O’Gilvie.
On Monday, Const. Seth Rietkoetter pleaded guilty at a Toronto police disciplinary tribunal to using unnecessary force and making an unlawful arrest. Sgt. Rachel Saliba pleaded guilty to the same charge on Tuesday.
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The prosecution and defence jointly recommended the officers be demoted temporarily though their sentences have yet to be delivered.
O’Gilvie’s mother said she hopes police officers hear this message.
“When you see young Black men or racialized youth, don’t assume that they’re all criminals. My son is a U of T student. He was on his way to write an exam when this happened to him,” she said.
Shellnutt is calling for footage from body-worn cameras to be released publicly.
“We were promised body cameras, as opposed to police reductions by Mayor Tory in 2020, and in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, following George Floyd’s killing, as a way to keep us safe. But we will never see this footage. It’s being withheld from us. So it raises a lot of questions about public oversight.”
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