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Police union fights back on use-of-force guidelines

08/09/2013 02:29 EDT | Updated 10/09/2013 05:12 EDT
Ontario police officers could face too many rules when trying to do their job, according to an Ottawa union, after the province's ombudsman said he would investigate provincial guidelines for police on use of force.

On Thursday, ombudsman Andre Marin said recommendations from other inquests have been ignored so he is launching an investigation.

This comes after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim, who had been carrying a knife, in a Toronto streetcar. The death has since generated public outrage.

The province gives officers rules "for de-escalating situations that could result in the use of force," but Marin said now is the time to review how police have responded to further recommendations on use of force.

"In the last week we've looked at the results of inquests dating back to 1994 and the recommendations coming out of these inquests are almost carbon-copied from each other: increase police training, increase how police defuse situations," he has said.

"What's happened to all these recommendations in 20 years?"

Police take direction from the public, union says

Matt Skof, president of the Ottawa Police Association, takes issue with Marin's pending investigation.

Speaking with Robyn Bresnahan, host of CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning,Skof said the public should be better informed about police officers' use of force in threatening situations.

He said police have always taken direction from the public and officers already have extensive training and guidelines that come from past recommendations.

"If an inquest has a specific recommendation, the ministry takes that very seriously," said Skof.

"In our own models, in our own training, if a scenario came up that was unique throughout the year, so let's say use of force, they could incorporate that into the yearly training of a scenario."

'Training is inadequate'

Darryl Davies, a criminology professor at Carleton University, argues Skof's answer is not good enough. He said this sort of review by the ombudsman is long overdue.

He said officers don't get enough "de-escalation" training and police are simply following the "use-of-force" guidelines set by the province.

"In any profession, be it medical training, veterinarian, firemen, whenever's there's a crisis we're supposed to be training them. And my position is that the training is inadequate," said Davies.

The Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Madeleine Meilleur, said her ministry will "co-operate fully" with the ombudsman's investigation.

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