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We may have got the police's attention: After more phone calls and neighbourhood letters, Superintendent Paul Gottschalk of Fourteen Division called to say he is looking into the incident, and will soon be writing a letter answering community questions. The main questions are:
Why does the police report so drastically contradict the witnesses' statements?
Why was there no follow-up investigation at the park?
Was there an attempt to re-visit the victim, and see if he had changed his mind about talking? If not, why not? Was there an attempt to make sure there was no long-term physical damage from being kicked in the head by many people, which might not have been observable during the short time that the victim spent in the hospital emergency room?
Under what circumstances would your department conduct an investigation despite the wishes of the victim not to talk? (E.g. presence of a weapon that is not boots, evidence of disabling physical damage, identification of the aggressors by witnesses, etc.)
If you want to find out more about this incident and its sequels, call Lily Weston at 392-0913 and she'll put you in touch with other residents who are involved.
Supt.Gottschalk's reply will be in the December newsletter
On September 20, eleven people from various streets in the neighbourhood faxed a joint letter to Superintendent Paul Gottschalk of Fourteen Division, about the September 3 group attack on a young man who was beaten unconscious at our park. The letter emphasized that the community does not regard any group attack as a minor incident, and asked Supt. Gottschalk to clarify the police position on group violence in our park. There was no answer for two weeks and then Robin Craig, one of the signers of the community letter, received a reply - not from Supt. Gottschalk but from Staff Inspector K.L.Forde of "Complaints Review."
Inspector Forde's letter said that the Chief of Police does not have to "deal with any complaint made by any member of the public if he... decides that the complainant was not directly affected by the policy, service or conduct that is the subject of the complaint."
It appears that the police have decided that this incident was none of the community's business.
In fact, no reference at all was made in the police letter to the multiple signatures in the community letter. The matter was treated as though this was an isolated complaint by one citizen, which does not merit a response.
Copies of the community letter were faxed to City Councillor Mario Silva and to Mario Zanetti, Director of Parks and Recreation. Neither of them responded.
Group beatings appear to be increasing in Toronto recently. Clearly our community will have to find a way to show the police, politicians, and park administrators that such cowardly acts of violence in the park do directly affect our community and that the right kind of service from public servants is good communication and sensible actions, not silence or dismissal. A letter to the Police Services Board is the next step, although they said they may not be willing to let residents speak to them about this matter.
For more information please check park bulletin boards.
The worst incident in the park this year occurred about 9.30 p.m. on Sunday September 3, when a fight near the basketball court culminated in a group attack by 6-10 hooded, unknown men who kicked one person repeatedly about the head and chest. It happened that a group of families was having a campfire at the fire circle at that time. Bruce Lyne described their horror when they realized that an object being kicked on the middle of the path nearby was a person. They yelled at the attackers to stop and some of them left, but three continued kicking. Six people from the family campfire group ran over and then finally the three remaining attackers left. Mr.Lyne, who has his first aid certificate, said the victim was lying motionless and remained unconscious for about four minutes. When the ambulance arrived he was taken away on a back-board and oxygen, to the St.Michael's Hospital Trauma Unit. Mr.Lyne said the emergency response was prompt but that he was troubled when a police officer suggested this was perhaps a drug-related matter and therefore not to be taken very seriously. Mr.Lyne said it looked more like a mob attack to the witnesses, and the families left the park immediately after, with some concern about the effect on their children of having seen this.
It may be that one lasting positive effect on the children will be that they learned that their parents help out people in danger, instead of turning away as sometimes seems to happen. The prompt courageous action by these families may have saved the victim from permanent injury or worse, and they should be honoured for this. At this time, however, it's hard to know how the victim is doing and whether any charges have been laid: three days of calls to the City Councillor's office have only turned up the astonishing information that the police at Fourteen Division could not find a record of this matter. The attack was witnessed by a number of local young people (some of whom also called 911). It may be that if a young resident of Havelock Street or Gladstone Avenue had been the victim of this group attack, the response would have been somewhat stronger than it seems to have been to date. Some of the witnesses who saw this group assault have developed a fear of a park (ours) where people would dare to carry out such an attack, oblivious to the presence of other park users. For more information please call Councillor Mario Silva's office at 392-7012.