Jeffrey Reodica issue is still alive
I ATTENDED the 10th Death Anniversary of Jeffrey Reodica Memorial last Wednesday (May 21) at Nathan Philips Square. I was touched deeply by profound sadness and quiet indignation felt by those present. They were the family, friends and others who felt 10 years ago and still feel now that the fatal shooting of the 17-year old Jeffrey by a Toronto police officer was not justified and the subsequent whitewash of the case by the SIU was a blatant travesty of justice.
The senseless killing of the youth triggered a strong sense of having been wronged by authorities who were supposed to “serve and protect” people. This feeling spread quickly in the Filipino community and other ethnic communities who later on mobilized intense mass actions infront of the police headquarters in downtown Toronto and the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in Mississauga. With the support of extensive media coverage and sympathy of progressive groups, the pressure led to the decision of the Attorney General to conduct an Inquest in the killing of Jeffrey.
The Reodica family and the Community Alliance for Social Justice (CASJ), represented separately by legal counsels, fought tit-for-tat against the Toronto Police and SIU’s moves at the Inquest to justify the shooting and presented their own evidence and testimonies.
The last time I wrote about this was in Nov. 2009. I reprint my column here. I believe what I said then are still valid now since nothing has significantly changed in terms of reducing police violence against civilians. On the contrary, it has increased as indicated by extensive reporting in the mainstream media.
THE JEFFREY REODICA issue is still alive. This, after more than five years since the 17-year old high school student was fatally shot by a police officer on May 21, 2004. A few days later, Jeffrey died in a Scarborough hospital.
A series of events, protests, exoneration of the police by the Special Investigations Unit, a public inquiry and jury recommendations, extensive mainstream media coverage, an ombudsman’s criticism of SIU, ensued in the subsequent months.
After the Inquest jury issued seven recommendations and the Toronto Police Services Chief Bill Blair reported to the Toronto Police Services Board that he would implement four of these seven recommendations, it looked like the dust had settled and the issue consigned to history.
Not quite, as shown by what happened at the Nov. 3 (2009) townhall meeting conducted by Blair.
The first called to speak from the Filipino community, Linda Javier, president of Filipino Centre -Toronto, informed Blair that the community is still asking what really happened in the incident when Reodica was fatally shot, hinting broadly that there’s still no satisfactory closure to the case.
To which Blair responded with a conciliatory tone saying that one of the first things he did when he assumed the leadership in the Toronto police force was to visit the Reodica family and offer his condolences.
But I felt something was still lacking. So when I was called to ask a question, I raised the same Jeffrey issue but asked specific and pointed questions.
But before I asked my questions, I expressed appreciation of his gesture in offering his condolences to the Reodica family, something his predecessor did not do but instead issued a media statement that he stood by his officer who shot Jeffrey.
I said I personally witnessed Blair attend the Inquest once and approached Jeffrey’s family. And he was quoted by the press that he was there to support the family and his police force.
But now, my questions. First, has Blair submitted his report on the police implementation of the four of the Inquest jury’s seven recommendations which he specifically committed to do in an interview with The Philippine Reporter in 2008?
He mentioned in his 2007 report to the Toronto Police Services Board that there was a budget of $439,000 for the implementation of the four jury recommendations. Has this budget been exhausted and how was it spent?
Blair replied that he has not submitted a report on the implementation of the four recommendations because they have not completed the implementation.
I would say this is an indication of how seriously the police are addressing the concerns raised by the jury in those recommendations.
My second question: In Blair’s report to the Police Services Board, his employer, he included a narration of the Jeffrey shooting incident. His narration was exactly the same as the version of the police officers in the Inquest. I asked, could he not include in his report the version of the Reodica family and CASJ’s lawyers as supported by the testimonies of their witnesses?
To which Blair replied that no, he couldn’t, they were only reporting the results or the findings of the Inquest.
I felt something wrong in his reply and I wanted to respond but the moderator indicated my time was up.
This was what I wanted to say: The Inquest did not come up with findings on the shooting incident. The Coroner repeatedly said during the sessions in 2007 that the Inquest’s objective was to hear statements and testimonies and not to find blame. Its outcome would be the recommendations to be issued by the jury, nothing else.
So Blair’s response stood on shaky grounds. The Inquest did not have findings spelled out in documents. It did receive testimonies and submissions, which included those from the Reodica family and CASJ’s lawyers which disputed the police version and the SIU findings. The specific output of the Inquest was the set of seven recommendations, four of which Blair committed to implement. What Blair reported to the Police Board was the combined version of the police offficers involved in the shooting of Jeffrey and that of the SIU. The community version was swept under the carpet.
Five years after the death of Jeffrey, justice is far from being served. Not even the police issues raised in the Inquest are being seriously addressed nor monitored. At least there’s no report of otherwise. Our community and leaders must be sleeping on the job. Jeffrey and other victims of police violence must be turning in their graves.