Former Chief Justice Frank Iacobucci has released a review of documents, policies and procedures of the Toronto Police Service and its interactions with people in crisis, offering up 84 recommendations. Iacobucci spoke to more than 100 experts, academics and representatives of stakeholder groups including CMHA Ontario and CMHA Toronto in order to inform the over 400 page report which was released on July 24, 2014.
From the outset of the report, Iacobucci states that serious and tragic events – such as the police shooting death of Sammy Yatim on board a Toronto streetcar in the summer of 2013 – are at the heart of this report and that the aim is not to place blame but to move forward and make recommendations for improvement in the future.
Iacobucci’s report states a failed and underfunded mental health system as one of the reasons behind the fatal incidents. The goal of his recommendations is to reach zero deaths during incidents when police interact with a member of the public, while ensuring safety for everyone involved.
The review emphasizes that access to mental health and other services is essential in improving the outcomes of people in crisis.
The review also emphasizes that access to mental health and other services is essential in improving the outcomes of people in crisis. Agencies and municipal, provincial and federal government institutions all need to be involved in implementing solutions.
The report outlines specific recommendations about mental health training and support for police officers; alternatives to lethal use of force; and the expansion of Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams, conducted energy weapons and body cameras.
Finally, the report recommends that an Advisory Committee be struck to ensure the implementation and evaluation of these recommendations.
CMHA Toronto’s Executive Director Steve Lurie has already accepted an invitation to sit on this committee.
“Judge Iacobucci found that under investment in mental health services led to police officers serving as mental health workers by default, a problem identified by both the Ontario Chief’s of Police, and the Canadian Chiefs of Police,” said Lurie.
“The hope is that implementing these recommendations will not only improve how police respond to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis but also how they coordinate and work with the mental health system,” he added.
This report and the work that follows will be watched closely by stakeholders across Ontario and Canada to see if it can effect change.
CMHA Ontario looks forward to providing further insight into the recommendations and assisting, where possible, in the implementation of this work. Despite the positive feedback on the recommendations from the Toronto Police Service and some members of the community, there are still families who are concerned about their loved ones who are experiencing mental health issues and have already had some contact with police. They see this report as just another exercise as many inquests and similar reports provided similar recommendations in the past.
To read the full report and recommendations, visit the report website.