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There by the grace of God go I – York Regional officer sent to jail for fatal collision

April 2021

“There by the grace of God go I.”

That’s one thought that entered my mind when I first heard of the death of Natasha “Carla” Abogado, after being hit by a speeding undercover police truck, driven by York Regional Police Detective-Constable Remo Romano, back in February 2014. As a retired police officer, I have walked in Romano’s shoes.

Now D/C Romano has exhausted all his appeals and must begin serving the 8-month jail sentence that was given after being convicted of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death back in 2018.

My condolences go out to the family of Carla. Despite questions being raised by the defence about any role Carla may have played in her own death, she certainly didn’t deserve to die that night.

D/C Romano was part of a police surveillance team, and was trying to catch up to his teammates at the time when he struck Carla, as she crossed St. Clair Avenue East in Scarborough. At the time, D/C Romano was driving at least 70 mph in a 40 mph zone (109 km/h in a 60 km/h zone). To make matters worse, as he was driving an undercover police vehicle, there were no lights or sirens on the vehicle that could be activated.

It was reported that there wasn’t any danger or urgency that necessitated Romano driving so fast. He was likely trying to watch the backs of his teammates.

It should be pointed out that Carla may still have been killed even if Romano was driving the speed limit, but Romano wasn’t driving that slow.

As the protectors of law and order in our society, we confer upon law enforcement officers certain powers and authorities that others don’t get conferred upon them. Yes, police officers can drive at excessive speeds, going through red lights and stop signs if needed. Police can use physical force when dealing with an uncooperative subject, even deadly force.

Police can even park in a no parking zone, as local By-Laws don’t apply to police in the course of their duties (which, for the record, doesn’t include simply getting a coffee).

However, police officers must always do their job safely. Police are actually required to come to a full and complete stop at red lights before proceeding, even with light and sirens going. Most will only slow down if they can see the way is clear, and few will complain given the urgent nature of many calls.

Besides any harm that may come to innocent civilians, a police officer is no good to the public in distress or their fellow officers if they are involved in a collision enroute to the urgent call.

On one particular occasion, I responded to an “officer needs assistance” call on the opposite side of my patrol area, a rural township, a distance of around 12 miles away. I raced there at around 100 mph (160 km/h), since it was mostly a straight, flat road, with no stop signs to worry about. Luckily, nothing bad happened to anyone.

While driving, it occurred to me that I probably should have slowed down at one particular intersection, which was at the bottom of an incline. At the intersection, you can’t see oncoming traffic until it’s over the hill. Given my speed at the time, if a vehicle at the cross-street had made a right turn, after seeing the intersection clear because I hadn’t crested the hill, I likely would have slammed right into the rear of them. Either that or tumbled into the ditch as I swerved to miss them.

Despite any good intentions or mitigating circumstances, I still would have born, at minimum, some responsibility for what happened. Police officers must follow certain rules (laws, procedures), and while some deviation is accepted to get the job done, officers are responsible for any negative results outside of those rules.

When a police officer uses deadly force, they had better make sure they are within the rules, or there will be repercussions.

A quick aside, cops in real life don’t shoot as many people as the cops do on TV. And they have to fill out paperwork; lots of it!

I never drove that fast past that intersection again, although there were other times when I had to drive that fast to an emergency call. That’s one of the downsides of being a rural cop, where sometimes we had only two officers to cover an approximately 600 square mile area.

There is absolutely nothing to indicate that D/C Romano wanted this outcome to happen, and he expressed just that in court, while apologizing to Carla’s family.

I certainly have sympathy for Romano. His life has been shattered too. Although I enjoyed being a police officer, there were certain aspects of the job that I knew weren’t for me, and being part of a surveillance unit was one of them. Some police jobs require a certain “attitude” in order to get the job done, and I’m not that person, at least anymore. When I was in the navy in my 20s, maybe, but I was 31 by the time I was sworn in as a 4th Class Constable.

The York Regional Police Association continues to stand behind D/C Romano, who will almost certainly lose his job now that he has begun serving a custodial sentence. The Association president Rob O’Quinn wrote in a statement, “We believe this decision will have serious implications with respect to how police respond to calls for service. As a result of the conviction in this case, police officers have been put on notice by the courts that they may face criminal liability for exceeding the speed limit while in the lawful execution of their duties.”

While I agree with O’Quinn that this decision will certainly have a negative effect on police officers, most of whom are trying to do the best job they can, I do disagree with his last sentence. Police must still do their job as safely as possible.

“There by the grace of God go I.”

Sources: MANDEL: Jail sentence shock for speeding cop in killing of teen | Toronto Sun, Appeal fails, York cop Remo Romano to serve time for hitting, killing teen with vehicle | The Star, Quebec provincial police officer convicted of dangerous driving in boy’s death loses appeal – Montreal | Globalnews.ca.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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