Almost a year after Sammy Yatim, Toronto Police get a report on how to deal with people in crisis
Almost a year to the day after the shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim, a long-awaited report on police encounters with mentally disturbed people is finally available for public consumption. The 400-page document was prepared at the request of police chief Bill Blair by former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci in the aftermath of the tragedy. While it doesn’t deal specifically with Yatim, it does contain 84 recommendations intended to make the Toronto Police Service better at dealing with people like him, who seem to be suffering from some kind of extreme mental or emotional distress when they come into contact with cops. (Yatim, remember, is believed to have been intimidating fellow streetcar passengers with a knife before police got involved.)
There are a number of seemingly useful ideas among the recommendations, including a proposal to arm some front-line police officers with tasers on a trial basis, to give them a new alternative to lethal force. (It’s an idea that has been floated several times already.) The report also calls for the creation of a mental-health oversight committee that would consist of police officials and representatives from healthcare organizations and psychiatric facilities. Ultimately, though, the greatest idea to come out of the whole exercise is probably best summed up by Iacobucci’s statement at today’s press conference, quoted in the Star: “The premise of the report is the target should be zero deaths when police interact with a member of the public,” he said. “No fatalities” would be a fairly low bar to success for most organizations, but in the case of TPS, we’ll take it.