Kenneth Mark lost his life for doing the right thing. In December 2009, the 30-year-old was executed outside a west end pizza shop after courageously testifying that Lamar Skeete and his stepbrother had tried to murder him with a shotgun blast to the back.
Just 12 days after both men were cleared by the court, Mark paid the ultimate price with his life for testifying. Skeete is currently serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Mark’s murder was the catalyst for the establishment of a consultative committee that will bring Toronto Police and various community organizations to devise mechanisms to improve support to victims and witnesses.
“This young man was as stellar a citizen as you could ever hope for, a wonderful family member as you could ever hope to have and he stood up for his family’s community against some people who were in that community to commit crimes of violence and deal drugs,” said Deputy Chief Peter Sloly, who is the driving force behind the new safety initiative. “His murder woke me up when I read how difficult a time our officers had in supporting him and his family and how difficult a time Kenneth’s family had in supporting his brave actions.”
Sloly said other elements of the program will include the implementation of a coordinator in the service’s specialized and divisional policing units to support investigators and frontline officers on how to provide the best victim-witness support, education and training by external community members to help police officers get a better understanding of how they can do things better and a marketing strategy to effectively and efficiently promote the program to the community so they can have greater confidence in it and in so doing utilize it.
“We are also going to create a one-stop shop for members of the service and the community to come to one location and find all the current evidence-based best practices to utilize on a daily basis out there and we will have a staffed strategy at our divisional policing support unit to make sure there is a constant level of expertise and direct support to all of our frontline members and partner agencies,” he said.
Mark’s older brother, Shawn, hopes the program will prevent other senseless murders.
“Definitely, this is a step in the right direction,” he said. “Tragedies happen and sometimes good things come out of them. This is one such occasion and I hope it will make people safer and save lives.”
Shawn said he never got the impression that his brother feared for his life.
“As far as I could tell, he was not worried about any reprisal,” he said. “It however happened and we have to face it. He was someone who was engaged in his community and did whatever he could to make it safe for young people. He was never in trouble with the law and his family are law-abiding citizens.”
Mark’s niece, Alicia Thomas, has vowed to follow in her uncle’s footsteps.
“I believe you are part of the problem if you don’t step forward to try to fix what’s wrong,” said Thomas, who graduated from university last year. “I am going to work with the police and the justice system for the betterment of our community and make it easier for witnesses and victims to come forward.”
The deceased and his seven siblings migrated from Grenada.