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Former police chiefs appointed to aid Ombudsman’s de-escalation investigation

November 7, 2013

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin announced Tuesday, November 5, 2013 that he has appointed two prominent police chiefs as special advisors to his ongoing investigation on guidelines provided to police for de-escalating conflict situations, including those involving people with mental health issues.

Former Police Chiefs Vern White and Michael Boyd

Former Police Chiefs Vern White and Michael Boyd will be advising the investigation.

The Ombudsman has asked Senator Vern White, former chief of the Ottawa and Durham police services and former Assistant Commissioner of the RCMP, and Mike Boyd, former chief of the Edmonton Police Service and former deputy chief of the Toronto Police Service, to advise and share their expertise during the investigation.

Since the investigation was announced in August, the Ombudsman has received 164 complaints and submissions regarding this case. The Ombudsman hopes that the appointment of the former police chiefs will help ensure that the investigation’s recommendations are practical and reflect the reality of police work.

Marin also suggested that the Ontario government should issue a uniform policy to the province’s police on dealing with aggressive and emotionally distressed people.

“Does it make any sense that a certain behaviour in Ottawa, in Toronto, in London, can lead to you being tasered, shot or de-escalated, depending on which city you’re in?” Marin said.

The Ombudsman comments are consistent with CMHA Ontario’s concerns, particularly around the use of conducted energy weapons (CEWs) commonly known as Tasers.

Currently, all police officers in Ontario must have basic training in use of force. The Ontario Use of Force Model directs that officers shall continuously assess each encounter and select the most reasonable option for action, relative to the circumstance.

In particular, Ontario’s Use of Force Model does not make allowance or offer guidance to police officers when encountering individuals who may be experiencing a mental health crisis and by virtue of their condition may not appear cooperative, due to hallucinations, delusions or other symptoms.

CMHA Ontario has recommended first response alternatives that police can use to engage with people experiencing mental health crisis in the policy position paper, Conducted Energy Weapons (Tasers).

To view the complete announcement, visit the Ombudsman Ontario website.

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