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Video should have spelt the end of the Cherry Beach Express

February 2021

The Cherry Beach Express is colloquial term, referring to an alleged practice by Toronto Police officers of escorting undesirable people/criminals late at night to Cherry Beach, an underpopulated area in the Port Lands of Toronto, where rough justice at the end of a billy-club would be administered.

This practice dated back to the 1950s, until at least as recently as the late 1996, when Thomas Kerr, a homeless man, made accusations that he was beaten there by several police officers.

In the age before the ubiquitous camera came upon us, everything from surveillance cameras in stores, to the cell phones that most people carry, this practice was a routine occurrence in many cities and towns.

An as of yet unidentified Barrie Police officer, in Barrie, Ontario, 50 miles north of Toronto, whom I’ll refer to as Officer BP, is the latest police officer to get caught on camera behaving in a manner that would appear to show excessive force, if not downright assault. This isn’t the first time Barrie Police officers have been caught on camera committing an assault.

Another Barrie Police officer, former-Constable Jason Nevell, was sentenced to a year in jail for the vicious beating of Barrie resident Jason Stern, outside the Bayfield Mall in Barrie, in November 2010.

Stern was beaten by Nevell after being suspected of damaging some Christmas ornaments in the mall. He was initially charged with assault on a police officer.

Fortunately for Stern, the entire beating was captured by a mall surveillance camera. When Stern’s lawyer got a copy of the video, the tables were turned and it was Nevell who was facing charges.

Nevill was ultimately found guilty of assault causing bodily harm, fabricating evidence, and obstruction, and sentenced to one year in jail. He resigned from Barrie Police, fully aware that he would be fired if he didn’t.

The most infamous case of police “brutality” caught on film is the Rodney King incident in March 1991, an action videotaped by a nearby resident, George Holliday. I put brutality in quotes because although he did sustain serious injuries, what the involved officers did with their batons, repeatedly striking King as he was on the ground, was actually proper LAPD policy for dealing with an active-resistive subject; something that was to continue until the subject submitted to arrest.

King was admittedly high on cocaine at the time, and along with making the poor decision of leading the LAPD and the California Highway Patrol on a high-speed chase, he was also failing to comply with their orders to remain on the ground. He likely wasn’t feeling much pain at the time, which may have resulted in him continuing to struggle. A Taser was used, but it failed to gain King’s compliance.

If you watch the video, the officers don’t strike during the times King is laying on the ground. It’s only when he tries to get up each time that the officers move in a continue their strikes.

The King case did lead to a change in that policy, but that is the reason the officers were acquitted in the resulting State of California criminal trial. It was actually a federal court that two of the officers, former-Officer Lawrence Powell and former-Sergeant Stacey Koon were convicted of violating King’s civil rights and imprisoned.

That said, none of those changes would have come about if not for George Holliday filming the encounter.

It’s yet to be seen what will come of the incident involving Officer BP, but the OPP Professional Standards Branch has been called in by Barrie Police Chief Kimberly Greenwood to investigate.

Sources: Former Barrie police officer Jason Nevill released from jail | CTV News, Barrie officer jailed for assault quits force | CBC News, Barrie policeman convicted of vicious, unprovoked assault on 25 year-old man (newswire.ca), Stacey Koon – Wikipedia, Rodney King – Wikipedia, A look at prominent figures in 1992 riot, where they are now (apnews.com), Toronto cop sentenced to jail for assault after judge finds he ‘falsified’ his account of a videotaped arrest | The Star, Toronto Urban Legends: Cherry Beach Express (torontoist.com),

Left for Dead in a Saskatchewan Winter – The Washington Post, Saskatoon freezing deaths – Wikipedia.

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.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/video-should-have-spelt-the-end-of-the-cherry-beach-express/

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