More Tasers, body cameras and 24-hour mental health teams are among the 84 recommendations in a report into the Toronto Police Service’s use of lethal force released Thursday.
The report called Police Encounters With People in Crisis, which was prompted following the death of Sammy Yatim in July 2013, was compiled by former Supreme Court of Canada justice Frank Iacobucci, who met with over 100 individuals and reviewed more than 1,200 documents.
“The basic focus of the report was to focus how going forward we can prevent lethal outcomes,” he said Thursday at a news conference.
“The target should be zero deaths when police interact with a member of the public.”
Among the recommendations, Iacobucci called for the expansion of the Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT), an initiative launched in the city in 2000 with St. Michael’s Hospital. MCIT dispatches a mental health nurse to attend calls involving people with mental health issues alongside police officers.
Under current police practices, the MCIT is treated as a second response team, but under these recommendations some teams could become first on scene.
The report also recommends the MCIT program be expanded to every police division and 24-hour availability, rather than the 10-hour days they currently work.
Another large section of the report deals with the use of Tasers, recommending any officer equipped with a Taser wear body cameras or cameras attached to the Taser that would activate when the device is used.
The report also recommends that any officer who may come across someone with mental issues to wear body cameras for greater police accountability.
It also suggests the creation of a pilot project that would allow more front-line officers to carry Tasers. Currently only supervisory officers carry Tasers.
Iacobucci’s report suggests the Taser pilot project could prevent death, while avoiding their wider misuse.
Iacobucci said the real work remains to be done and the true test will be what changes police make and the approach they take to the task.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said, “This isn’t a report that will gather dust. This is a report that will gather momentum.”
“We will move on the 84 recommendations made by justice Iacobucci and his team with a strong sense of urgency and resolve,” he said, adding the first thing he’d do is form an implementation advisory committee.
Last August, Blair had asked the former justice to take a broad look at how officers interact with people in crisis and to come up with recommendations in response to the shooting death of Yatim, 18, on July 27, 2013.
Yatim was shot eight times and Tasered after police received calls about a disturbed person brandishing a knife and reportedly exposing himself on a Dundas streetcar. Const. James Forcillo faces a charge of second-degree murder in his death.
Four families who had a loved one die after a confrontation with police were interviewed as part of the report.
A part of the report also recommends the creation of a mental health oversight body involving members of the police force, 16 psychiatric facilities, EMS and mental health organizations.
Click here to read the entire “Police encounters with people in crisis” report.
With files from Showwei Chu