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Ombudsmen to probe police guidelines

Aug 08 2013

TORONTO - Ontario's ombudsman says he'll conduct a systemic investigation into the government's guidelines to police on how to de-escalate conflict situations.

Andre Marin's announcement comes in the wake of the fatal shooting of a Toronto teenager that's sparked public outrage over police use of force.

He's said the shooting raises the question of whether it's time for the province to direct police on how to de-escalate situations before they lead to the use of force.


August 8, 2013
By Corrie Sloot

Aug 08 2013

TORONTO – Ontario’s ombudsman says he’ll conduct a systemic investigation into the government’s guidelines to police on how to de-escalate conflict situations.

Andre Marin’s announcement comes in the wake of the fatal shooting of a Toronto teenager that’s sparked public outrage over police use of force.

He’s said the shooting raises the question of whether it’s time for the province to direct police on how to de-escalate situations before they lead to the use of force.

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Sammy Yatim, 18, was killed on an empty streetcar on July 27 in an incident captured on surveillance and cellphone videos.

Shouts of “drop the knife” could be heard as a few officers surround the streetcar. Three shots ring out and Yatim can be seen dropping to the floor, then seconds later six more shots can be heard followed by the sound of a Taser.

Witnesses have told various media outlets that Yatim exposed himself and waved a knife around before the other streetcar passengers fled.

His death prompted hundreds of people to take to the streets calling for justice. More than 30,000 people have signed an online petition calling for criminal charges to be filed against the officer who fired the shots.

The Special Investigations Unit – Ontario’s police watchdog – is looking into what happened and if the officer who fired the shots should face any criminal charges. Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has also said his office is reviewing the incident.

Const. James Forcillo has been suspended and the Toronto Police Association president is urging the public not to jump to conclusions.

The ombudsman said his office has already received more than 60 complaints related to this shooting. He also said that anyone with information relevant to this investigation can come forward anonymously.

“I want to stress that this investigation will not affect the ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by the Ontario Special Investigations Unit,” he said.

The ombudsman also noted that the chair of the Toronto Police Services Board welcomed the investigation.

But some police officers have already attacked the ombudsman on Twitter, calling him names associated with terrorism. The ombudsman said that a Durham Regional Police detective had already been identified as the person behind the attacks.

That conversation quickly took over the press conference.

“Emotions run high when we talk about police oversight,” he said. “I would hope for a more informed dialog.”

Marin declined to mention how the person behind the attacks on Twitter was identified and also declined to mention if disciplinary action would be taken against the officer.

The ombudsman’s investigation will not examine the criminality of the Yatim shooting in particular, but instead will look at the training, policies and procedures that led to it and allowed it to happen. The deescalation of tension and defusing violence should be a bigger priority and training should avoid the use of violence.

He said police shootings have become a systemic problem that must be addressed at the most basic level.

“The investigation will relate to the systemic response to conflict by police services in Ontario. And in the last week we’ve looked at the results of inquests dating back to 1994 and the recommendations coming out fo these inquests are almost carbon copy from each other. Increase police training. Increase how police defuse situations. What’s happened to all these recommendations in 20 years? They’ve all been gathering dust in some bins somewhere,” he said.

(Canadian Press, Postmedia News)


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