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Trending: Are police officers responsible for the climate of mistrust in Toronto?

Last Updated Dec 3, 2015 at 7:51 pm EDT

When the public loses respect for Toronto’s police officers, the city has a major problem.

There have been a number of incidents recently that show people showing blatant disrespect for our men and women in uniform.

In October, hundreds of people in Yonge-Dundas Square used Nuit Blanche celebrations to turn on a small group of police officers stationed in the square, shouting obscenities and throwing bottles and garbage at them until the officers took shelter in a elevator entrance at the north end of the square.

The crowd was angry, raucous and almost ravenous, looking to humiliate and belittle the officers. Sure, some of the actions can be attributed to getting caught up in a crowd’s frenzy, but the length of the confrontation is truly disturbing.

And just this week a startling video surfaced of an officer making an arrest at the Sheridan Mall LCBO while fending off a crowd of unruly bystanders shouting and distracting him in an obvious attempt to free the perpetrator in custody.

(To watch video on mobile, click here)

TPS Communications Director Mark Pugash called the incident “troubling.”

“What is especially concerning is that members of the public shout down an officer trying to make a lawful arrest and try to free the person he has in his custody,” Pugash wrote in an email. “This is dangerous behaviour and troubling as the people in this crowd seem to want to take the law into their own hands.”

On Wednesday, a 42-year-old man was arrested and charged with obstruction in connection to the video.

Unfortunately, it appears the behaviour of some law enforcement officers themselves may be at the root of this growing trend of disrespect for police, both in Toronto and in other major cities around the world. And because we are in an era where everyone with a cellphone can become a news broadcaster, we are seeing more questionable police events than ever that undermine our trust in those we depend on to uphold the law and protect us.

The videotaped shooting of Sammy Yatim on a Toronto streetcar has become the rallying point for those who say police are not acting in a way we expect of them. Yatim was shot nine times at close range despite apparently not posing a legitimate threat to police. As the video went viral, accusations of excessive force and calls for justice dominated social media.

(To watch video on mobile, click here)

But Yatim is not the only incident in which police have undermined our trust, nor is it the latest. In July, police shot and killed a man with a hammer at an Eglinton apartment building. Santokh Bola is seen being being beaten by Toronto cops in a case of mistaken identity. In 2014, Jermaine Carby was shot dead during a traffic stop in Brampton. In the U.S., an unarmed black man was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and Freddie Gray died while in police custody in Baltimore.

Since the video of Rodney King being beaten by L.A. police officers aired in 1991, we have had seemingly unfettered access to videos of police behaving badly, giving inside access to police confrontations like never before.

And without incidents like these, there wouldn’t be activist groups like Black Lives Matter, there wouldn’t be calls for body cams on police and there wouldn’t be protests in streets across North America all the way to Toronto’s Allen Expressway. It’s clear that a growing series of events have slowly eroded the public’s faith in law enforcement officers, particularly in our black communities.

(To watch video on mobile, click here)

So when a crowd turns on police in a public park or heckles a cop outside a shopping mall, we shouldn’t be surprised anymore. There aren’t enough positive stories about police going above and beyond the call of duty to compensate for the negative front-page headlines or requisite social media uproar every time a new cop shooting video surfaces. Pushing back at the police will continue to be a troubling, yet growing trend.

But if there’s any solace we can take from this week’s video outside Sheridan Mall, it’s the patience and restraint the unnamed officer showed while trying to do his job in the middle of the unruly crowd. Fending off crowding bystanders with a cut on his head while trying to call in backup and restrain someone, this officer took all the abuse and contained the situation without letting the incident become just another ugly headline.

Perhaps events like this should actually reinforce our confidence in the police.

(To watch video on mobile, click here)