‘I apologize’: Toronto police chief reflects on comments made after Zameer acquittal

‘I apologize’: Toronto police chief reflects on comments made after Zameer acquittal

Toronto’s police chief is apologizing for comments he made in the wake of a not guilty verdict in the death of a police officer, while the city’s police service board chair called for cooler heads to prevail as the service wrestles with the fallout of the case.

Chief Myron Demkiw said he regrets wishing for a different outcome in the case against Umar Zameer outside the courthouse earlier this month.

“As you know, it’s been a particularly difficult week for our service and our members, and also there have been some painful public conversations,” Demkiw said.

“I fully understand the concerns that have been expressed, and I’ve been reflecting on my comments as the chief of police. I apologize for my first words in the moments outside the courthouse.

“I want to be very clear that I accept and respect the decision of the jury. As I’ve said over and over, closure can never come at the expense of justice,” he said.

Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw attends a press conference in Toronto on Monday, May 1, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

The comments from the leadership came in the first Toronto Police Services Board meeting after Umar Zameer was acquitted of first-degree murder in the 2021 death of Det. Const. Jeffrey Northrup, in a hearing where the judge highlighted to the jury potential collusion among witness officers whose testimony didn’t match physical evidence.

But those comments are a sign the police leadership hasn’t taken seriously how damaging the conduct in the Zameer case is to the reputation of the police service, said Rahim Shakir of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“It’s important that both the board and the board chair play a public and visible role in responding to a crisis of public trust in this nature,” Shakir said in an interview.

“Cooler heads prevailing means that instead of reflexively defending a chief of police, an oversight body would say they see and hear the public’s concerns and should respond,” Shakir said.

Zameer’s laywer had pointed out at court that Zameer was visiting downtown Toronto for Canada Day with his pregnant wife and child when Northrup was run over by his BMW. He thought he was being attacked and drove off, without realizing Northrup and his partner were plainclothes police officers or realizing that he had run over Northrup.

Even though Zameer’s wife had given a statement to the police in the early morning following the crash, none of that information was relayed by then police chief James Ramer, who told media that Zameer was accused of an “intentional and deliberate act.”

Appearing virtually at the meeting, board chair Ann Morgan said she supports the reviews proposed by Demkiw, one on the investigation itself by the OPP, and another on plainclothes policies, and called Northrup’s death a “terrible tragedy.”

“I want to add that in the last short while there have been many charged and emotional views on this matter. I am asking our community to let cooler heads prevail,” she said. 

Umar Zameer and his lawyers walk away from the courthouse following his not guilty verdict, in Toronto, Sunday, April 21, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

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