Ombudsman’s report slams police training as the problem

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Nabil Yatim believes that if police officers in Ontario received more training on how to use words instead of weapons, his son Sammy would be alive today.

“I’m almost positive he would be,” Yatim told reporters at Queen’s Park Wednesday, after the release of a much-anticipated investigation by Ontario’s ombudsman into how the provincial government trains and directs police on use of force.

Sammy Yatim’s high-profile death in July 2013 at the hands of Toronto police Const. James Forcillo prompted ombudsman Paul Dubé’s investigation. Since Yatim’s death, 19 more people have been shot dead by police in Ontario. In many cases, they were people in crisis, Dubé writes in his report.

In a biting indictment of police training, Dubé’s report concludes that people in crisis are dying at the hands of police not because officers aren’t following their training. “It’s because they are.”

His 90-page report makes 22 recommendations, ranging from ramping up training to calling on the province to create a regulation requiring police to use de-escalation techniques in all possible conflict situations — before resorting to force. The report calls for that regulation to be in place by this time next year.

“The issue of how police are trained to handle situations of conflict with people in crisis is not a matter of academic debate. It is literally a matter of life and death, and one that has been neglected in this province for too long,” Dubé said at a news conference.

Dubé, who officially took over from André Marin in April, said the need to improve police training is “urgent.”

Among the probe’s most troubling findings was that constables get far less basic training in Ontario than anywhere else in Canada — just 12 weeks at the Ontario Police College, compared with 24 weeks for new RCMP recruits.

(Some police services do provide additional training after the mandatory provincial training. Toronto police recently upped their additional training to 11 weeks, adding more de-escalation training.)