In the wake of the attempted murder conviction of Toronto police Const. James Forcillo, CMHA Ontario continues its call to improve police interactions with people experiencing a crisis. CMHA Ontario is reiterating its view that police officers should receive additional and ongoing training focusing on lowering emotional tensions by using effective communication or de-escalation techniques. Additional education about mental health, addictions and stigma should also be provided.
Another recommendation is for around-the-clock availability of Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams (MCITs) by police services across the province.
Evidence shows there’s a greater chance for de-escalation and a safe outcome for people in crisis when teams of mental health professionals work with police as first responders. – CMHA Ontario Camille Quenneville
“Evidence shows there’s a greater chance for de-escalation and a safe outcome for people in crisis when teams of mental health professionals work with police as first responders,” said Camille Quenneville, CEO, of CMHA Ontario.
CMHA Ontario and its branches have worked extensively with various shareholders on this issue, most notably former chief justice Frank Iacobucci. Iacobucci released a review of documents, policies and procedures of the Toronto Police Service and its interactions with people in crisis in July 2014.
Iacobucci’s review was in response to the shooting death of Sammy Yatim on board a Toronto streetcar in July 2013 for which Forcillo was convicted of attempted murder.
The report outlined specific recommendations about crisis training and support for police officers; alternatives to lethal use of force; and the expansion of MCITs, conducted energy weapons and body cameras.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) recently made strides to improve the outcomes of officer interactions with people experiencing a crisis by releasing a mental health strategy last December.
The first pillar of the strategy is to support the OPP workforce with the necessary education and training in mental health so they can serve to capacity. The second pillar will focus on improving the response of the OPP workforce in crisis situations when they are interacting with people in the community experiencing a mental health crisis.