Speeding Police Officer Gets Eight Months for Killing Pedestrian

CC BY 4.0. Tony Webster on Wikipedia

This was a surprise. After all, she was wearing black and not crossing at the light, and he was just doing his job.

Two years ago we covered the death of a young woman, Natasha Carla Abogado, who was killed on a Toronto street by York Regional Constable Remo Romano, driving a black F-150 at almost twice the speed limit, going after a "person of interest" who shoplifted perfume from a drugstore. The defence claimed that she was wearing black, possibly wearing headphones, and "made a fateful decision to cross St. Clair at the time and location that she did . . . She chose not to walk to the controlled intersection 75 metres west, but rather chose to cross where she did.”

I predicted at the time that nothing would come of it.

It’s hard, getting juries to convict people of dangerous driving after they kill a pedestrian; there is so much of “there but for the grace of God go I” among people who drive. It's even harder if the person driving the car is police. Lawyers know how to pick a Cops are Tops jury who assume he’s just doing his job. Pedestrian deaths are “accidents” that are inevitable, the price we pay for having a motorized society.

I am pleased to report that I was wrong; Remo Romano was just sentenced to eight months in jail. It took a while; his first trial ended with a hung jury, the second ended with an acquittal which was appealed, and the third found him guilty.

Of course, the defence still says he was just doing his job, even though he was not in his jurisdiction. From the Star:

“We are extremely disappointed in the jail sentence,” [Defense Attorney] MacKenzie said. “It’s been our position all along that PC Romano was in the attempted-good-faith performance of his duties at the time of this tragic accident. The impact that this case will have on front line officers and first responders will be significant.”

That last line is also very significant, suggesting that police might now be afraid to go twice the speed limit in unmarked cars without lights or sirens in another jurisdiction.

When I wrote the post, Blaming the victim taken to new extremes in Toronto "tragic accident", it got 256 comments, mostly supporting the police. "How is the driver's fault?? she crossed the street invisible! even at 50km/hr she would most likely be killed." There were also a lot of people asking, "Why is this on TreeHugger? I don't come here to read about police killings."

But we do talk about urban design, and about how these suburban roads are deadly in so many ways. Lights are a mile apart, so people (totally legally) cross mid-block; the roads are designed to let people drive fast; the cars and trucks are designed to go fast. And we talk about victim blaming. As I concluded:

Blaming the victim has become the go-to excuse for killing pedestrians. It's not just wearing black at night either; in New York, drivers apparently get off because the pedestrians are too short to see, or too old to move quickly enough, or too far behind their mom. And God forbid if they have a phone in their hands. But in the end, it is the driver in the big metal box that is doing the killing, aided and abetted by the planners and engineers who designed the roads for the big metal boxes. It's time to fix this.

And of course, Remo Romano is out on bail, pending appeal. It's not over yet.