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Return to duty for cop accused of killing teen on streetcar sparks anger

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TORONTO - The return to work of a police officer charged in the videotaped gunning down of a teenager on an empty streetcar was denounced Thursday by the victim's family and supporters.

In a statement, they said they would be protesting on Sunday against the police handling of Const. James Forcillo.

"We are extremely disappointed that a police officer charged with second-degree murder — of which there is ample video evidence — is being allowed to return to duty," the statement said.

Forcillo should not be awarded with "a paid vacation for seven months, followed by a desk job," it said.

A preliminary hearing to determine whether Forcillo, 30, should stand trial is currently underway. He faces a charge of second-degree murder for the police shooting of Sammy Yatim on an empty streetcar late in the evening last July 27.

The incident was captured on surveillance and cellphone video on which nine shots can be heard following shouts for Yatim, 18, to drop a knife. Police tasered Yatim after he had been shot.

Hundreds of people subsequently protested the shooting, demanding answers.

Forcillo was released on $510,000 bail and had been suspended with pay. However, Forcillo quietly returned to active duty at Toronto Crimestoppers in an administrative role in February — something that only became public this week.

Outside court Thursday, Forcillo's lawyer said he supported the back-to-work decision made by Police Chief Bill Blair.

"I'd like to see Const. Forcillo working for his pay, being a productive member of the Toronto police service while this matter is ongoing," Peter Brauti said.

"He's presumed to be innocent. I see no reason why he should not be working."

To the chagrin of its police chiefs, Ontario is the only province in which suspended officers are required by law to be paid unless they have been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment.

Convicted officers who are not jailed continue to collect pay unless they have been fired under disciplinary rules. Other provinces grant pay discretion for suspended cops to police chiefs.

Forcillo also faces a charge of discreditable conduct but any hearing has been put on hold until the end of the criminal case.

While the widely seen video of the shooting shocked many people and led to the charges, Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack earlier urged people to allow the court process to play out.

"We think that the evidence is going to present a way more fulsome and quite a different picture than was originally presented the night that this happened,'' McCormack said.

Forcillo's preliminary hearing is scheduled to run through May 9 and then from June 16 to 20.

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