Jeffrey: Post Mortem

Community News & Features Oct 16, 2004 at 11:29 am

By Manny Bade

On September 29, 2004, the Special Investigations Unit had finally released its long awaited verdict on the shooting death of Jeffrey Reodica. While we feel disappointed at the verdict justifying the shooting by police of the 17 year old, it did not really come as a surprise. Nor did it raised eyebrows that all those demonstrations and public display of solidarity on the part of the Filipino community failed to sway the SIU’s decision otherwise. By its very nature as an investigative body, the SIU is not supposed to be seen as being pressured by external forces in its decision making process. I hate to say this but trying to influence the SIU’s decision by public demonstrations is actually counter productive, and may have actually contributed to the decision adversed to the Reodica’s position.

Aside from this and the fact that the SIU is not accountable to the public, many factors point to the fact that the cards were stacked against the Reodica family’s quest for justice for their son. First, there was the statistics. We already know the record of the SIU in regard to their verdicts in cases involving police conduct against the public. Second, the SIU simply follows its unwritten role as the antiseptic of the police, a way of appeasing the public’s concerns about killings of civilians by its officers. Third, with SIU investigators composed mainly of former police officers, what can you expect? So, to realistically expect the erring officer to be charged criminally in this case is simply wishful thinking at best. The Reodicas will simply have to bite the bullet much like Nicole Simpson’s family did when O.J. Simpson was exonerated.

But all is not lost. The Reodicas can follow the lead of the families of the victims of O.J. Simpson by launching a civil case to seek damages against the individual officers and the police force of Toronto, and the Province of Ontario.

There are several reasons why this is the best route to take at this point. First, in a civil suit, the required weight of evidence is not as stringent as that of a criminal case, therefore, there is a greater chance of success here. Second, no amount of punishment can bring back Jeffrey, while compensation can at least alleviate the pain of his sudden passing, taking into account his future economic worth. Third, it gives a chance for the erring officer to make amends and to go on with his life; while the Reodicas can finally bring closure and come to grip with the death of their son.

But most important, a precedence of a successful civil suit will result in a deluge of similar cases involving past and future cases, giving impetus for the province and the police force to overhaul the system to make the SIU fairer and less biased for the police. For if the SIU will not be reformed to give justice to the victims of police brutality, then the government will have to keep paying millions of dollars for the faults of trigger happy police officers. If this will result in reforms and the SIU starts meting appropriate punishments to future erring officers, then the police will have to more careful in handling civilians, resulting in less civilian casualties in the hands of the police, which is what the Reodicas are fighting for in the first place.

Truly then can we claim Justice for Jeffrey and that his death was not in vain.