The Toronto police officer accused of murdering Sammy Yatim on an empty Dundas streetcar last July is back on the job.
After seven months of paid leave, Const. James Forcillo has been working an administrative role at Crime Stoppers since February.
Forcillo has been working at police headquarters after a decision by chief Bill Blair. He is not in uniform and does not carry a gun.
Blair was not available for comment, but Toronto police spokesperson Meaghan Gray said the decision was a measured one.
“The chief looks at each individual case — it’s judged on its individual merits — and makes a decision that’s in the best interest of public safety, the best interest of the service, and the best interest of the officer in question.”
Forcillo’s second-degree murder charge in the shooting death of the 18-year-old is still before the courts.
Forcillo’s lawyer Peter Brauti told CityNews that officers who face criminal charges are usually suspended right away, but there is procedure where police reevaluate information from the case.
At that point, Brauti said, there are three options:
- keep suspension as is
- return officer to administrative duties
- return officer to full service
“He doesn’t want to sit at home and be waiting for his trial,” Brauti said. “He would rather be doing something in his capacity as a police officer. If that means restricted duties, he’ll do restricted duties…”
It’s not “irregular” for an officer who has been suspended to be returned to his duties, Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack added.
“If there is no risk to the public or risk to the police services or [if it would not] compromise an existing investigation, more often than not, officers are returned to duty.”
McCormack cautioned that Forcillo’s case is still before the courts.
“In the court of public opinion, officer Forcillo’s already been found guilty…we should wait for the evidence and let the court judge.”
Forcillo’s murder case will be in the preliminary trial phase for the next week and a half while the court decides if there is enough evidence to go to trial.
Yatim’s friends and family issued a statement on Thursday.
“We are extremely disappointed that a police officer charged with second degree murder of which there is ample video evidence is being allowed to return to duty. Forcillo is charged with a crime, how can he possibly work for Toronto CrimeStoppers? Police officers must bear more responsibility for murder, not awarded with a paid vacation for seven months, followed by a desk job,” the statement read.
The group, named “Sammy’s Fightback for Justice” is planning a rally and march on Sunday, April 27 at 12:30 p.m., starting at Toronto Police headquarters.
Yatim family friend Joseph Nazar said police should have informed them that Forcillo was back at work.
“At least they should have had the courtesy to contact the parents so they don’t have to listen to it from the media,” he said, adding that they only found out on Wednesday night. “That would have been the honourable thing to do.”
With files from Tammie Sutherland