Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

The use of force against citizens in distress on public roads is at the center of the coroner's inquest in Toronto.

No Yatim-style scenario in the training of police officers

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Image from surveillance video of the streetcar Sammy Yatim was on before being shot and killed by Officer James Forcillo in 2013.< /p>

  • Jean-Philippe Nadeau (View profile)Jean -Philippe Nadeau

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A Toronto police instructor said at the coroner's inquest into the death of Sammy Yatim that methods of de-escalating violence are periodically instilled in officers and not just recruits. The 18-year-old was killed by a police officer after he brandished a knife on a crowded city tram in 2013.

Sgt Robert Monteiro teaches police use of force techniques at the Ontario Police Academy and within the Toronto Police Service.

He says that today police officers are taught ways to defuse a crisis through different scenarios in which officers must play take turns in different roles: the police officer, the citizen in crisis, a member of the public, etc.

He nevertheless admits that the tram scenario has not yet been created, referring to the events of June 26, 2013, when Sammy Yatim showed his penis to passengers at the back of the train before brandishing and to wave a knife in front of them.

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Sammy Yatim was killed on the night of July 26 to 27, 2013 in this city tram , who had previously been evacuated by the driver.

Sgt Monteiro, however, candidly admits that he did not read the statement on the facts on which all the lawyers agree in this case.

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The instructor nevertheless ensures that the scenarios involve all typical cases, such as individuals with a mental health problem, a drug addict, a homeless person, an armed citizen, a hostage taker, etc. #x27;mental aspect is always taken into account in a crisis situation, he says.

It further recognizes that unconscious biases and prejudices about mental health are also taught. Not everyone with a mental health problem is dangerous, any more than it is risky to shake the hand of an HIV-positive person […] we have come a long way, he says.

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Former police officer James Forcillo, who was fired from his department, was sentenced to six years in prison in 2016 for attempted murder.

L& #x27;instructor explains that additional training in mental health is offered online one-on-one with people who have experience in this area.

He also affirms that an element of the training also concerns groups from minorities, such as members of the First Nations, the LGBTQ+ community and racialized communities.

We have new generations who are arriving with a very rich cultural background, he adds.

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James Forcillo was acquitted of unpremeditated murder for the first three shots he fired at Sammy Yatim , but found guilty of attempted murder for the last six blows against the victim who was lying at that time on the floor of the tram.

This three-day training is mandatory for all uniformed police officers, particularly front-line officers. It is no longer rigid military-style training as before, he explains.

The training focuses on intervention in times of crisis, techniques for de-escalating violence, the use of force and the handling of non-lethal weapons, such as pepper spray, batons or electric shock guns.

However, training can never be perfect, he says, adding that instructors do not have preconceived ideas or narrow vision in their ways of doing things.

We build our courses based on the training that police officers have already received, but which we are constantly improving, he says.< /p>Open in full screen mode

Sammy Yatim has arrived from Syria to Canada with his family three years before his death, because his parents wanted him to have a better education.

In his cross-examination, the father of the family's lawyer, Ed Upenieks, asks him if the police now negotiate with a citizen in crisis who asks them for a favor.

He recalls that Sammy Yatim had asked the tram driver for a cell phone so he could call his father. Could a police officer offer his phone in such a scenario to defuse a crisis? he wonders.

Sgt Monteiro says negotiation is at the heart of de-escalation techniques and that bait (a cell phone ) can be used to obtain something from the citizen in exchange (their knife for example).

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Sammy Yatim, a knife in his hand, a few minutes before his death

However, he specifies that a police officer in such a situation would first ask the individual to drop his weapon and agree to be handcuffed before giving him a telephone to call a loved one.

Me Upenieks suggests that Sammy Yatim might still be alive if Agent Forcillo had lent him a phone instead of ;open fire on him.

Sgt Monteiro nevertheless adds that such a scenario is not taught to police officers who are sent back for training.

He further concludes that negotiation remains an arduous process, because it is impossible to guess what the reaction of a distressed individual will be if first we do him a favor.

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A friend of Sammy Yatim holds his photograph outside the courthouse, during the trial of James Forcillo.< /p>

Sgt Monteiro also emphasizes that the Taser is used more and more and that its handling is taught to police officers when the models change over time.< /p>

The pairing of Taser 7 and cameras on uniforms is effective in strengthening public trust and making police officers accountable for their actions on the ground, emphasizes it.

It specifies that only police officers who have passed the tests to use a Taser are authorized to carry one with them at work.

Little progress on police use of force, Ontario ombudsman says Although there are no statistics on this subject, he points out that the number of fatal events has decreased considerably during volatile situations between the police and a citizen in distress on the public highway.

However, he notes that the electric pulse gun is not infallible. It is 83% effective; it doesn't solve every crisis and it will never replace a gun, he maintains.

He says his department adopted a strategy, No death, no injury [0 casualty, 0 injury, Editor's note], on the use of force: lethal use does not ;is required only in exceptional circumstances, where for example a police officer(s) or members of the public are in danger.

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