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Ontario Ombudsman Launches Investigation Into Police Training Following Sammy Yatim Shooting

André Marin will look at how police are trained to de-escalate conflict situations in the province.

Protesters at a rally following Sammy Yatim's shooting

Protesters at a rally following Sammy Yatim’s shooting.

Ontario ombudsman André Marin has announced that his office will be conducting a formal investigation into the direction and guidance the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services provides to police services regarding de-escalation of conflicts. The investigation follows the police shooting of Sammy Yatim, an 18 year old who brandished a knife on a TTC streetcar, on July 27. Many believe that the police used excessive force against Yatim—firing at him nine times (including a reported six shots after he had already collapsed on the floor of the streetcar)—who died of his injuries a few minutes later.

Marin emphasized that his investigation concerns the overall systems, procedures, and policies that are in place to train police forces in handling tense situations, rather than the specifics of the Yatim shooting. That is currently under investigation by the Special Investigations Unit, which looks into instances where police are involved in a person’s serious injury or death. (The officer who shot Yatim has been suspended with pay as that SIU investigation proceeds.)

“I spoke yesterday with the chair of the Toronto Police Services Board,” Marin told reporters today, “and he welcomed my investigation.” Marin expressed his hope that street-level officers would be similarly cooperative. He also asked any members of the public who have information about the shooting to contact his office confidentially.

In the weeks since the shooting, Marin explained, his office has received “more than 60 complaints, inquiries, and submissions regarding this case from a wide range of citizens and experts.” He decided to pursue an investigation after conducting a preliminary review of provincial guidelines and police practices—including an examination of coroner’s inquest reports and recommendations going back to 1994—as well as surveying policies in other jurisdictions. “This has convinced me that a full investigation is warranted.”

Those coroner’s reports show a consistent pattern, Marin said, frequently recommending increased training for police in de-escalation, and improvement in the techniques they use for defusing conflicts. Referring to those recommendations, he added: “Have they been gathering dust in some bin somewhere? After 20 years are we content to just move along as we’ve been doing? It seems to me like Groundhog Day. Inquest after inquest, police shooting after police shooting.”

Marin announced that his report will be completed within 6-12 months.


CORRECTION: 1:59 PM We originally wrote that Yatim had been shot nine times. This may be true, but has not been confirmed; what we know is that nine shots were fired, not whether all nine hit him.

Comments

  • Guest

    The sad thing is, this is the only investigation that is or will be done. Some people seem to be expecting an investigative report from the SIU. That’s not what they do. They decide whether to lay charges and issue a very brief statement of what went down, with little or no detail. They don’t even release the names of the officers involved (the only reason we know the shooter is named Forcillo is due to the Star’s investigative work – it would never have been released ordinarily). None of the other officers will ever be identified (unless, perhaps, the Star decides to).

    There IS NO report forthcoming. None, zero. You know as much about this shooting as you will ever know. The shooting officer does not have to testify in any way or provide even the slightest bit of information about the shooting, to anyone. The SIU does not have to testify in any way or provide even the slightest bit of information about the shooting, to anyone. The Toronto Police do not have to provide the slightest bit of information about the shooting. Every bit of information involved is secret.

    The public does not understand this, but it should.

    • https://paul.kishimoto.name/ Paul Kishimoto

      Bill Blair said “it [was] the law” that he would have to provide a report to the Toronto Police Services Board within 30 days after the SIU’s report: http://torontoist.com/2013/07/bill-blair-on-sammy-yatim-i-recognize-that-there-is-a-need-for-answers/

      Does that count? Can we get people prepared to be really angry if that’s a whitewash, or if some weak excuse is offered for not making it public?

      • dsmithhfx

        Some will get angry. Do they matter? That remains to be seen.

      • tyrannosaurus_rek

        Blair has said a lot of things that turned out to be lies, so I’m not holding my breath that this is one time he’s telling the truth.

        • https://paul.kishimoto.name/ Paul Kishimoto

          Point is, he’s said it, and he will be held to it.

      • Guest

        Blair has to tell the Police Services Board what action, if any, he has taken, after he is told by SIU whether they will lay charges or not. His report is something like “I have suspended officer X pending disposition of the charges.” It does not have to be disclosed to the public and usually isn’t.

        Again: there is NO thorough investigative report required or currently planned to be disclosed to the public in the death of Sammy Yatim (or anyone else killed by police). None.

  • Testu

    I wonder how much co-operation he can expect given that he’s already been on the receiving end of allegations and veiled threats from a police officer over this matter. (http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/08/08/ontario-ombudsman-outs-twitter-troll-attacking-him-over-sammy-yatim-shooting-as-durham-police-detective/ )

  • OgtheDim

    I’m kinda wondering what the Iroquois flag has to do with all this.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      And the Mohawk warrior flag…

    • HotDang

      Probably some solidarity related thing. It’s pretty common for different social justice groups to show up to each other’s protests.

  • https://paul.kishimoto.name/ Paul Kishimoto

    Marin, for his trouble, has been called a “carded member of Al Qaida,” “A COMPLETE DOUCHE BAG,” etc. by, apparently, a police detective: http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/08/08/ontario-ombudsman-outs-twitter-troll-attacking-him-over-sammy-yatim-shooting-as-durham-police-detective/

    • dsmithhfx

      It seems possible the account was created without his knowledge, or hijacked.