(Canadian OH&S News)
Ontario’s Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) has announced that it is conducting a review of the Toronto Police Service’s (TPS) use of force, de-escalation techniques and approaches in dealing with people with mental health issues, emotionally disturbed people and people in crisis.
The OIPRD said in a release that the review would examine public complaints filed and evidence collected from complaint investigations, recent high-profile use of force incidents involving the TPS and past reviews and reports involving similar issues. It will also look at TPS policies, procedures and practices regarding use of force as well as equipment, officer training, best practices from other jurisdictions and relevant research and data.
“Recent high-profile cases of Toronto Police Service’s use of force have raised concerns among Toronto citizens and affected public confidence in policing,” said Gerry McNeilly, the head of the OIPRD, in the release. For example, 23 police officers were on the scene of the shooting of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim in the early morning hours of July 27, 2013. Yatim suffered multiple gunshot wounds, and the police also deployed a conducted energy weapon. “In addition, my office has received public complaints that are significant enough, in my opinion, to warrant a systemic review.”
The OIPRD said that it had also established the terms of reference for its review. Among other items, it will examine:
* Ontario Police College training in use of force, equipment and the application of the principles of Ontario’s use of force guidelines;
* Police service training in dealing with people with mental health issues, emotionally disturbed people and people in crisis and de-escalation techniques;
* The police use of force model;
* Supervision and accountability for officer training and deployment and for officers dealing with those with mental health issues; and
* The TPS board’s oversight and direction regarding use of force.
The OIPRD will accept submissions from stakeholders and the public until April 4. A source from the OIPRD said that the arms-length agency is hoping to complete the review within nine months.
The review comes on the heels of similar reviews by the TPS itself and by the Ontario ombudsman. On Aug. 12, TPS chief Bill Blair reported that retired Associate Chief Justice of Ontario Dennis O’Connor would assist the TPS by examining its use of force procedures and making recommendations related to policies, procedures, training and equipment.
On Aug. 8, Ontario ombudsman André Marin said that he would conduct a systematic investigation into the direction provided to police by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services for de-escalating conflict situations. It was expected to be completed within a year.
Irwin Nanda, executive vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, said that the federation is calling on the Attorney General of Ontario to impose uniform guidelines across the province that require any police response to focus on de-escalating and diffusing confrontations. Nanda added that the shooting left many questions unanswered, including those related to police supervision, de-escalation, use of deadly force and possible tampering of crime scene evidence.