Eric Garner Facebook post exposes tensions between police union and board
Protest post leads to calls for Alok Mukherjee to resign
There are calls for the head of the Toronto Police Services board to resign after he posted about ongoing anti-police protests in New York City on Facebook.
Alok Mukherjee, the chair of the police services board, shared a Facebook post from the group Occupy Wall St. with the caption "I can't breathe."
"I can't breathe" were the final words of Eric Garner, a man who died while New York City police were applying a choke hold to him this past summer.
Those same words have now been adopted by protesters demonstrating against a decision by a grand jury in New York not to indict the officer who applied the choke hold.
The police union are saying the since-deleted post is enough to call for the resignation of the Mukherjee.
The post was accompanied by a composite image altered with text to display the following:
- An image of ISIS, with the caption "Americans killed by ISIS: 3"
- An image of a strand of the Ebola virus, with the caption "Americans killed by Ebola: 2"
- An image of a protest, with the caption "Americans killed by police: 500+ every year"
The union representing the Toronto police say the post "crossed the line."
"His lack of objectivity indicates he is no longer fit to sit on a police oversight body," said union representative Mike McCormack. "His sharing of this poster is clearly unprofessional, clearly unethical and clearly seeks to undermine the very people he is paid to oversee."
McCormack has vowed to file a complaint against Mukherjee to premier Kathleen Wynne and mayor John Tory. Mukherjee is appointed to the board by the province.
Mukherjee said, in a written statement, that the post was "intended to encourage conversation and reflection."
"Let me say that I very much regret the reaction caused by the posting," he said in the statement. "The share was not meant as an endorsement of any views contained."
This is not the first time Mukherjee has been at odds with members of the Toronto police.
He has clashed with police chief Bill Blair and the union over budget figures and racial profiling. Mukherjee and police representatives have been both been very public in their disputes in recent months.
At least one councillor, Ward 26's Jon Burnside, has weighed in on the Facebook posting. "I've always believed that a picture is worth a thousand words and it’s very regretful to see Mr. Mukherjee’s actions in this regard," said the rookie councillor.
"It’s way out of step for him to do what he did and I believe he owes the members of the Toronto Police Service, and the people of Toronto, an apology."
In his statement, Mukherjee said the image was "not intended to be a negative commentary in any way on members of our police service or on our practices."