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Toronto police chief backtracks on comment after Umar Zameer verdict

Toronto’s chief of police, Myron Demkiw, deflected criticism Tuesday regarding a controversial comment he made outside the Superior Courthouse Sunday.

About an hour after a jury found Umar Zameer not guilty of first-degree murder and the lesser charges he was facing in relation to the death of plainclothes officer Jeffrey Northrup, Demkiw told reporters: “I share the feelings of our members. We were hoping for a different outcome.”

On Tuesday, when asked by Global News about the comment again at a news conference unrelated to the Zameer case, Demkiw said he thought he was clear that he supported the justice system and the work of the jury.

“It’s not lost on me, what the conversation has been,” Demkiw said.

Demkiw said he tried to clarify what he meant in a news release Monday, in which he announced he had asked the OPP for an independent review as a result of the concerns raised by Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy about the testimony of plainclothes officers. Molloy suggested to the jury that there may have been collusion.

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Demkiw also ordered a full internal review of all aspects of plainclothes policing and public safety.

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“While we all seek closure in many different ways, and elusive as closure can be, sometimes in a court process, closure can be something that we certainly look for. But as I said yesterday, as I was confident I said Sunday, closure does not come at the expense of justice and let me be crystal clear, I support and accept the verdict of the jury,” Demkiw said to reporters Tuesday.

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In a statement to Global News, Umar Zameer’s lawyer Nadar Hasan wrote: “I am encouraged by the fact that the Chief has backtracked from his earlier comments. I am also encouraged by the uproar from Canadians across the country who were disappointed in the Chief’s earlier comment and made their opinions known.”

“The Chief must remember that he is Chief of Police to all Torontonians and not just those crying for vengeance,” Hasan said, urging the chief to focus on healing and police reform.

Past president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association Daniel Brown said the chief’s comments were chilling, especially given he was speaking on behalf of police officers everywhere.

“Police are supposed to be dispassionate. They’re supposed to be blindly seeking justice, not just a particular result and it’s that kind of tunnel vision that can lead to charges like this making their way up through the court system,” Brown said.

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Demkiw was also asked about comments made by his predecessor as chief, James Ramer, on the morning of July 2, 2021, just after Northrup was struck by a vehicle and killed in a parkade at Toronto City Hall.

Ramer told the media it was “intentional and deliberate.” Demkiw said it would be inappropriate to go back in time and comment on another chief’s comments.

On Tuesday afternoon, when asked about the trial outcome, Premier Doug Ford told reporters his heart goes out to Northrup’s family.

“It’s a very sad situation that happened, and I respect the court’s decision,” Ford said.

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