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A Retired Associate Chief Justice Will Review Police Policy, Following Sammy Yatim’s Death

Retired Associate Chief Justice of Ontario Dennis O'Connor will lead a review of the way police handle emotionally disturbed people.

Police Chief Bill Blair at today’s press conference.

At a press conference this afternoon, Police Chief Bill Blair announced that the Toronto Police Service will be bringing in an outsider, retired Associate Chief Justice of Ontario Dennis O’Connor, to lead an internal review of the way police handle situations involving people who are emotionally disturbed, following the police shooting death of Sammy Yatim.

Blair first announced the review at a July 29 press conference, after Yatim’s death. Such a review is a legal requirement of the Police Services Act: the chief of police is required to launch an internal investigation whenever the Special Investigations Unit becomes involved in a case, as it has in Yatim’s. (The SIU, a civilian watchdog agency, investigates cases where police involvement may have caused injury or death.)

Blair told reporters that the investigation would be objective—hence the need for outside help. “This review must be objective and thorough,” he said, “and it must look critically at all aspects of our service, including our policies, our procedures, the training that our members receive, and even the equipment that they use.”

O’Connor is best known for serving as commissioner of the Walkerton inquiry.

Blair wouldn’t comment on any of the Yatim case’s details, because, he said, the law forbids him from doing so. Before being shot and killed by police on a streetcar near Trinity Bellwoods Park, Yatim allegedly exposed himself and brandished a knife at fellow passengers.