A report from the Ontario ombudsman found that police officers in the province need better training, and they need it urgently.
It’s called “A Matter of Life and Death” and it was commissioned just a few days after the death of Sammy Yatim on July 27, 2013.
“The report was excellent. We just have to wait for the implementation,” Yatim’s father Nabil (Bill) Yatim told reporters after the report was released.
“I’m almost positive he would be [alive if the recommendations had been implemented before July 27, 2013.]”
Listen to the full interview with Nabil Yatim below:
The findings and recommendations from the ombudsman’s investigation into the use of lethal force and de-escalation techniques on the part of police are firm and unequivocal: Police officers in Ontario need better training to deal with conflict situations in a non-lethal manner. And they need it urgently. Too many people in crisis have died at the hands of police.
Ombudsman Paul Dube points out that the basic training for police in Ontario is the shortest in Canada (half as long as the RCMPs). Not only that, the ombudsman found that the focus is more on learning how to use weapons rather than learning techniques to avoid violence. And the report calls for that to change.
Yatim said that while the report did “not quite” lend him a feeling of justice or closure, he said he was hopeful it would change things for other families, and may bring him peace one day.
“It’s a start … the culture has to be changed,” Yatim said.
Officers should be required “to use de-escalation techniques in all situations of conflict before considering force options, wherever tactical and safety considerations permit,” Dube wrote. The Special Ombudsman Response Team found that training is inadequate and the focus is not placed on de-escalation. Officers need better tools to handle these situations.
Click here to read the report
There are 22 recommendations, the first of which is that “the ministry of community safety and correctional services should use its legal and moral authority to take the lead on the issue of de-escalation and police-involved shootings of persons in crisis”.
He says inquests have shown police respond with their guns when vulnerable people are in crisis because they are following their training, which focuses on “drawing their weapons and yelling commands.”
Dube says there is “ample evidence” the government needs to make the issue a priority and mandate more instruction time in de-escalation techniques, including well over 100 coroner’s jury recommendations calling for improved police training.
Dube said that 19 people have been killed in police shootings in Ontario since he opened the special investigation following Sammy Yatim’s death.
Nabil Yatim had told the ombudsman’s office that what his son “needed that night was someone to wrap him up with a blanket and take him home, instead of someone shooting him nine times.”
The report mentions the Andrew Loku killing as an example of a fatal police shooting without de-escalation, but does not focus on it in particular.
Dube stresses he’s not being critical of police, but of their “inadequate training” for when they face difficult and potentially dangerous situations, and says the shootings are traumatic for
everyone, including the officers.
“We don’t need another study or consultation to determine that police training on de-escalation is inadequate,” Dube said as he released his report.
“It is not just a mater of long-overdue leadership, but of saving lives.”
Minister David Orazietti said he is accepting all the recommendations in the report.
With files from The Canadian Press