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Victory for man bashed by cops

More than seven and a half years after being beaten and subjected to homophobic taunts by police in the heart of the gay village, Robert Schisler has received the substantial cash award originally granted to him by an Ontario court in 2004.

Police and city bureaucrats have chosen not to appeal the verdict of the Ontario Court Of Appeal, handed down Dec 20, 2006, which unanimously endorsed the earlier decision.

“I am very pleased that they decided not to appeal this any further,” says chair of the Police Services Board Alok Mukherjee.

A cheque for more than $700,000 (including interest and legal costs for the appeal) was sent in early February to Schisler’s lawyer, Hedy Epstein. It’s one of the largest-ever cash awards against the Toronto police.

Even with the substantial cash award Schisler says he’s “disheartened” because the cops involved in the assault will not be disciplined.

“I’d still like an apology from the police,” says Schisler, 53.

At approximately 2:30am on Jul 22, 1999 Schisler had parked his van on Jarvis near Carlton; he and a second man were in the back with the curtains drawn when they felt the van rocking. Schisler looked out and saw three men surrounding the van.

Unaware that the men were undercover officers, Schisler drove off, dropping off his trick nearby. He was stopped by police on Church St near Isabella where he was pulled out of his van and forced to the ground. The officers then punched and kicked him while calling him a “cocksucker” and “faggot.”

Schisler was charged with dangerous driving and resisting arrest; the charges were later stayed.

Meanwhile Schisler sued the cops over his treatment. In December 2004 an Ontario court found that the police had assaulted Schisler, awarding him $452,000. The decision was appealed and upheld by the Ontario Court Of Appeal.

Mukherjee says the decision not to appeal to the Supreme Court was largely made by risk management analysts from the city’s finance department and legal staff at Toronto police, and not by the Toronto Police Services Board.

Money for the award came from a group insurance plan shared with other city departments. But Schisler says the funds should come directly from the police. “The money should come out of the pockets of the cops who beat me.”

“Lessons need to be learned from this case,” admits Mukherjee. He says he “hopes that there will be positive results coming out of [the Schisler award] regarding human rights and how the police treat people.”

Mukherjee added that, just as the 2005 settlement between Toronto police and the Toronto Women’s Bathhouse Committee stemming from the 2000 raid on the Pussy Palace committed cops “to more sensitivity on gay and lesbian issues, now [the Schisler case] helps us even more to move forward with protecting human rights.”

The Pussy Palace decision, mediated by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, resulted in an award of more than $350,000 and a commitment by police to improve queer and trans sensitivity training according to new guidelines to be approved the Toronto Women’s Bathhouse Committee.

Coalition For Gay And Lesbian Rights In Ontario chair Tom Warner applauds Schisler’s victory.

“It has been a long and painful ordeal for you and one I know that you have endured against great odds without much support from the queer community,” wrote Warner to Schisler after the announcement that there would be no appeal.

“The community owes you a debt of gratitude for fighting back against homophobes and gaybashers on the police force and for standing up in face of all the lies, intimidation and threats. ”