Point the finger at lack of de-escalation training, ombudsman says at Ottawa forum (Orleans News)

Point the finger at lack of de-escalation training, ombudsman says at Ottawa forum (Orleans News)

December 12, 2016

12 December, 2016

Paul DubĂ©, Ontario’s ombudsman, addressed a crowd including Ottawa police at the police service’s second annual Human Rights Learning Forum on Dec. 8 at the St. Elias Centre.

Brier Dodge
Orleans News
Dec 12, 2016

Paul Dubé, Ontario’s ombudsman, addressed a crowd including Ottawa police at the police service’s second annual Human Rights Learning Forum on Dec. 8 at the St. Elias Centre.

His June report on police de-escalation in conflict situations came just under a month before the July death of Abdirahman Abdi following a conformation with Ottawa police.

Dubé’s report into de-escalation was prompted after the death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim, after he was shot by police on a Toronto streetcar. Through the course of the investigation, there were 19 more fatal Ontario police shootings.

“When an unarmed man comes into contact with police and ends up dead, there are serious questions raised,” Dubé said. “Of course when that person is a person of colour, other important questions are raised too.”

He said the report didn’t lay blame with police officers, but that the fault lies with police training.

“I’m sure no police officer wakes up… hoping they’ll be involved in a fatal shooting,” he said.

The report included 95 interviews, and studying best practices and methods from around the world in dealing with de-escalation, especially while dealing with people with mental illnesses.

The use of force model and training in Ontario is outdated, Dubé said. Drawing a weapon works well with “a rational bad guy” but with a mentally ill person, it’s more likely to escalate the situation than calm things down.

A lot of that training goes back to the Ontario Police College, where he said only five 90-minute sessions on communications and de-escalation are offered through the course of the program.

“We confirmed what the public already knew,” Dubé said. “The need for a forum on how police are trained in Ontario was needed.”

One of the recommendations in the report was to expand training at the Ontario Police College to teach more de-escalation techniques, and expand mandatory two-day annual use of force training to two days.

The ministry has said they have plans to implement all of Dubé’s recommendations, and he said a status update was due before Christmas.

“De-escalation is only one part of a very complex puzzle,” Dubé said, touching on the general nature of the human rights forum in Ottawa. He said as more institutions close, there are more people in crisis interacting with police.

“Police have said to me, ‘we’re not social workers.’”

Police chief Charles Bordeleau, who noted he can’t comment on the Abdi case due to the SIU investigation, said it’s important they find a way to track all the times that de-escalation techniques are used successfully.

He also said finding the resources to provide training can be challenging.

“No one disputes the fact that we need to invest more in training for our officers,” Bordeleau said. “But that comes with capacity, funding, all those types of things. What are you prepared to do to support local government?”

Dubé said his office’s role is to emphasize the need for these things, and provide potential solutions such as best practices among other police forces.

“Yes, it will take investments. Yes it will take additional resources,” Dubé said. “But there are other resources. Some of that is just involving shifting priorities and re-jigging things.”

West Carleton Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, chair of the police services board, said the province is being asked to step in, and have consistent training for officers province wide. El-Chantiry is also the chair of the Ontario Association of Police Services Boards.

“In the big services you can juggle the priorities and you can find room to do more training,” he said. “But we need the province to standardize the training on de-escalation so no matter where the police officers serve, they can have the same training.”