Punishing personal distress

More than two months ago, 42-year-old father of eight Chris Amyotte died, injured by Vancouver police who fired a projectile filled with lead shotgun pellets.

The unarmed victim was seeking help, apparently suffering a personal crisis. CBC News reported the Ojibway man “was in distress from a bear mace attack and was attempting to relieve the burning sensation by removing his clothes and dousing himself in milk.

Chris Amyotte needed medical assistance. He was punished by lethal violence instead.

The CBC report by Eva Uguen-Csenge is inadequate journalism of the type we see too often from large news operations. The article mentions “bean bag” nine times, which is nine times more than the number of beans on the scene. Also mentioned without comment is this:

VPD Sgt. Steve Addison has said a bean bag shotgun is “a safe and effective less-lethal tool” and “is used as an alternative to lethal force and can be deployed against a person who is acting violently or displaying assaultive behaviour.”

Video shows that Amyotte was not acting violently or displaying assaultive behaviour. His death proves a weapon firing lead shot is not safe. The projectiles are more closely related to shotgun shells, while the term “bean bag” reminds us of soft parcels tossed by games playing children. CBS News quoted a gun store owner about use of the lead filled bags:

You don’t aim for someone’s head per se, certainly not on purpose, and you couldn’t even do it if you tried. It veers off course because of its very nature. Think of it as a hacky sack flying through the air. It doesn’t fly like an arrow. It’s ballistically unstable.

Police use of bean bag rounds and rubber bullets under scrutiny

Another troubling issue is the apparent ineffectiveness of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), British Columbia’s police oversight agency. The video in the October 27 CBC report was posted to TikTok days after the August homicide. The dead man’s family member Samantha Wilson said she has been aware of the video for months.

The IIO said they had no knowledge of the video until it was shown to them by CBC.

That raises an obvious question. How thorough is the IIO investigation?

We should wonder why the victim’s family, journalists and others would be aware of the video, but full-time, professional ILO investigators would be unaware months after the incident. Were they even talking to Amyotte’s survivors?

In other public sectors, effective oversight and regulation is difficult. In policing, it seems to be near impossible. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):

The bad news is that police abuse is a serious problem. It has a long history, and it seems to defy all attempts at eradication.

This CBC story shows police abuse is not just a problem in the USA.

Have you ever wondered about the psychology behind police brutality? Why is it that some police officers can go their whole careers without ever using excessive force, while others seem to be caught in a cycle of using more force than is required sometimes leading to death? Furthermore, what are the factors that influence a police officer to use excessive force?
Google search for “bean bag fatalities”

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Categories: Justice

4 replies »

  1. On what planet were they living. Of course lead shot, regardless of what it is packaged in, is going to cause great harm to the human body. Even I know that!
    Nothing you have written is of a surprise to me. We have to look no further than the child and her grandfather being handcuffed outside a bank. Its racism.
    I don’t know what is wrong with these cops, well I do, but still you are left wondering why they do what they do. Don’t these idiots know to try to talk to people who are in distress first. Its not about screaming orders at them, they usually aren’t hearing you, you are just frightening them.

    How we will provide decent over sight over police officers, armed guards, etc. is simple, start doing it and be dammed how much the police and others dislike it. It might also help if there was an agency which provided legal representation for the assaulted person, the ones the police assaulted, killed, etc. About the only thing which will cause proper over sight and changes in behavior of those who over see police, is money. a lot of it. People whose rights have been violated, need to be financially compensated. a few multi million dollar lawuits ought to fix Ottawa and city police, etc. Oh, and no bonuses for management of police services if one of their officers are involved in inappropriate activity, ie. violence, killing citizens, etc.
    There need to be repercussions for these types of activities.

    If the man had been a well dressed caucasian he would most likely have been assisted by the police instead of being murdered. Yes, I’m of the opinion, the man was murdered and those involved out to be charged as such and their bosses or those investigated be also tried for what ever will work appropriately.

    Police officers have difficult jobs and life is difficult all on its own but using excessive force doesn’t help them or their victims. All police officers, etc. would benefit from seeing a “shrink” at least once a year. If they need a break from their jobs, it ought to be provided. Better assessment of their pyshological state when hired would also be best. Durning WW II the British Armed Forces was putting together special forces to deal with very dangerous operations. First they were choosing people for their physical capabilities. Not much of a success. they then tested people for their mental ability to with stand pyschological strees. Those who did well, moved on in the jobs and the British had more successes.

    I think Sims idea to hire a 100 mental health workers will be a good thing.

    You don’t need violence to difuse a situation, except in rare cases. I did it four times in my adult life, with no real training. You just need to be really calm, talk softly, and look them straight in the eye.

    Canadians like to think we are different from the americans, especially when it comes to police violence, but really, not so much. We’re just better at covering it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The sad fact is, we, as a society, have not come to grips with mental illness and today, if one does not have the money to deal with mental illness, one becomes a throw-a-away.

    The sad thing is, politicians, who can make change, don’t and leave it for the police to deal with it.


    • Evil Eye, you’re correct.

      As they say, the difference between being crazy and eccentric, is the size of your bank account


  3. Thank you for caring! This terrible tale needs to be heard – & not just filed away as yet another [indigenous] casualty of the ugly police brutality that’s been too common for too long – because of its tragic outcome, from a situation that warranted only calming concern at worst (IF cops’ presence was even justified, which is debatable). Cops beating up/ bullying civilians – esp. 1st Nations – is distressing; but cops victimizing to the point of KILLING a blameless man who was clearly (& understandably, as the victim of an earlier assault) in extreme distress: this is a nightmare of dire proportions, responsibility for which rests 100% on the part of police.

    IF this tragedy is allowed to go unexamined/ unpunished, the results promise to be catastrophic – & cumulative… I.E. the insidious divide between ‘them’ & ‘us’ will only widen, ensuring escalating injustice by a force that’s clearly lost critical oversight of its officers. Nothing less than a full investigation into this regrettable incident – WITH a comprehensive exam of all possible contributing causes, iNCL. hiring & training policies – is acceptable. Our wellbeing as a whole society depends on it.. (CRiES!)

    Liked by 1 person

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