The Service will be presenting a report to the Police Services Board on September 17, detailing its response to recommendations from various reviews on how police respond to people in crisis.
The recommendations come from a Coroner’s inquest known as JKE (Reyal Jardine-Douglas, Sylvia Klibingaitis, and Michael Eligon) and an independent report commissioned by former Chief William Blair, written by retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci - Police Encounters With People in Crisis.
Deputy Chief Mike Federico said the two reports presented 158 recommendations, out of which 140 were directed or applicable to TPS. The Service, however, looked at all 158 recommendations.
“We established a project team and 11 working groups to examine all of the recommendations with a view of implementing as many as possible,” said Federico.
Ninety-five per cent of the recommendations, 133 out of 140, were implemented by the Service, said Federico.
The 140 recommendations were divided into 10 themes:
- Mental Health System and Toronto Police – Service and Community partnerships
- Police Culture – Zero harm (injury or death)
- Selection of Police Officers: psychological suitability
- Training: de-escalation and de-stigmatization
- Supervision: police accountability and officer support
- Mental Health of Police Personnel: coping and resiliency
- Use of Force: preservation of life (minimal use)
- MCIT and Other Crisis Intervention Models: Critical Incident Response
- Equipment: less lethal force options and officer protection
- Implementation: reporting
Under the supervision theme, the Service has started a year-long, body-worn camera pilot project, explained Federico. It improves accountability and protects officers.
Under training, three weeks have been added to recruit training and a third day added for current officers in their annual in-service training to reinforce de-escalation and de-stigmatization.
“It will focus on giving officers a better understanding on the nature of human beings and what they are experiencing during an emotional disorder, or when they have a mental illness,” said the Deputy. This is to assist an officer in establishing a rapport, making a connection through which they can establish communication with a person in crisis and help resolve the situation through cooperation with that person.
While similar training has existed, the two reports represent the latest knowledge in the field of dealing with people in crisis, said the Deputy. As a result, the extra three weeks and additional day have been added.
The training will also deal with “sound judgment and tactics” explained the Deputy. “We expect officers to make good choices – ones that are lawful, ethical, and effective.”
This training has significantly benefitted from input and help from persons with lived experience , said Federico.
“Emotionally disturbed people are no more likely to be violent than somebody else, but when they are violent, we need to get them under control, using as little force as possible and avoid, to the extent we can, the application of lethal force,” said the Deputy.
He said the challenge with emotionally disturbed people is often the challenge to communicate, “Are we actually getting the message across? Therefore, there is great emphasis in training on effective communication as a way to de-escalate the situation to achieve the safest possible outcome,” explained Federico.
Of the seven remaining recommendations, three are under consideration because they have resource and process implications, meaning issues of staff and finances.
The remaining four consist of two each from JKE and the Iacobucci report. They each address the same issues.
One set deals with looking into the effects that conducted energy weapons (CEWs) have on people who are emotionally disturbed. While the Service recognizes the value of continual research, it is satisfied that the current medical research has found no persuasive evidence of risk to vulnerable persons, said the Deputy.
The Service understands that across Canada police authorities including the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (the Ministry) are not contemplating further research at this time. Additionally, because research of this kind involves medical research, it is beyond the police service’s ability to undertake it, said Federico.
“There are also problems with developing scientific research methods because of the very low overall injury rates associated with the weapon in Ontario,” said Federico. “The data sets would probably be too small to make any useful findings”.
The other two recommendations have to do with what is known as the CEW threshold. A threshold is the point when an officer can use a CEW on a person. “Below the threshold, you cannot use it, above it you can,” said Federico.
Currently the Service follows the standards laid out by the province. “In Ontario, the province has worked with policing stakeholders to establish the current threshold, which we are satisfied with,” said Federico.
In accordance with Ministry standards, a CEW is only used in direct application (probe or drive stun mode) when the officer believes a subject is threatening or displaying assaultive behaviour or, taking into account the totality of the circumstances, the officer believes there is an imminent need for control of a subject, such as in suicide attempts. Therefore when considering the threshold, the Ministry took into account that the research has demonstrated that there are fewer injuries to subjects and police officers associated to CEW use than other force options like the baton and physical control techniques, explained Deputy Federico.
“We have implemented as many of the recommendations as we can, given the limits of knowledge, science and resources in the continual pursuit of excellence for safe encounters, which means zero injury, zero death,” said the Deputy.
He emphasized that the Service had benefitted from the JKE and Iacobucci reviews and that reports helped greatly to build upon the preceding work of the Service and the community.
In the words of Chief William Blair when the Iacobucci Report was published “This report represents the roadmap for the Toronto Police Service. It will gather momentum not dust”. “It is clear that Chief Saunders has helped fulfill Chief Blair’s promise,” concluded Deputy Federico.
To read Toronto Police Service's response to the reviews please click on the links below: