Ontario Ombudsman Launches Investigation Into Police Training Following Sammy Yatim Shooting
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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.