Chief Mark Saunders has said the Service has examined ways in which officers use force and respond to the citizens in crisis and the organization’s procedures, training, supervision and tools they provide officers.
Constable James Forcillo was found guilty of attempted murder in the 2013 fatal streetcar shooting of Sammy Yatim. He was found not guilty of second-degree murder, manslaughter and aggravated assault.
At a news conference at police headquarters following the verdict on January 25, Saunders said tough questions must be asked and answered whenever police take a life.
“One of the things we need to look at is how we respond to people in crisis,” he said. “Over the past couple of years, we have been really aggressive at looking at some of the things we have to do. I just came back from a seminar dealing with how to reintegrate the judicial system with people in crisis… We do over 23,000 calls a year (for people in crisis) just in the City of Toronto alone. What we need to look at is what agencies can assist us so that we can have better solutions.
“I have looked at working with other agencies so that we can have stronger partnerships to help solve these situations in a much better manner. I have looked at introducing other levels of force, we have added another full day dedicated to training on people in crisis and looking at what tools we need to implement… I hope that when we utilize all of these things, we will have a better outcome whenever we deal with people in crisis.”
Saunders added that a society that fails to provide those supports forsakes its responsibility to care for those who may be unable to care for themselves.
“This is enormously important work,” he pointed out. “I promise my full support, along with the full support of the Toronto Police Service, to work with government, the mental-health community, and whomever else can help, to ensure that those in crisis get the assistance they need. They deserve nothing less.”
Saunders said he doesn’t expect the verdict to deflate the morale of uniform Service members.
“I don’t think there is any officer who wakes up and says, today, I am going to wind up in this situation,” he said. “Policing is very fast and fluid . I also believe that our officers go to work on a day-to-day basis and they do the right things for the right reasons. There is an onus on us to make sure we provide our officers with training and the right tools and also introduce a host of other agencies to assist us in dealing with this. By and large, I believe our men and women will deal with the calls that are put before them and they are going to do it in a professional way. They have the full support of the Command if they are doing the right thing for the right reasons.”
Forcillo will be suspended with pay while the court proceedings continue.
His legal team plans to file a motion requesting to stay the proceedings and will consider an appeal.
The Chief's address:
The death of Sammy Yatim on Wednesday, July 27, 2013, is a tragedy that has profoundly affected this city.
Whenever police take a life, tough questions must be asked and answered. There can be no legitimacy without accountability. We are seeing the process of accountability unfold.
As I am sure you can understand, I cannot discuss the verdict until the legal process is complete.
What I can do, is explain how the Toronto Police Service, as a result of this tragedy, has examined, in the smallest detail, with the assistance of distinguished outside experts, the ways in which we use force, the ways in which we respond to people in crisis, our procedures, our training, our supervision, and the tools we provide our officers, with a goal of no deaths and no injuries.
The power police officers have comes with enormous responsibility to use it wisely. In return, officers are entitled to the best training, supervision and equipment.
I promise, today, that while I believe we have made significant strides by implementing the recommendations of the Iacobucci Report, we have only begun. We will continue to scour the world for ideas, programs, approaches and techniques that can provide additional protection for those in need. We, along with those who work in the mental-health community, have much work to do to provide greater supports, care and facilities for those in crisis, so they get the help they need when they need it.
A society that fails to provide those supports, fails in its responsibility to care for those who may be unable to care for themselves. This is enormously important work. I promise my full support, along with the full support of the Toronto Police Service, to work with government, the mental-health community, and whomever else can help, to ensure that those in crisis get the assistance they need. They deserve nothing less.