Waterloo Region's new chief of police Bryan Larkin says additional training and support for police officers responding to mental health calls, coupled with tools like Tasers, will reduce the need for lethal force among frontline officers.
"Our demand for service in dealing with mental health issues continues to increase," said Larkin.
"It's the one area of focus that I think all police leaders are saying, you know, that we have to do something different."
Larkin's comments are in response to an extensive report by former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci on lethal force following the shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim by a police officer last year.
'Training is really crucial to everything that we're doing. It's really the foundation of what we do as police officers.' - Waterloo Region Police Chief designate Bryan Larkin
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair asked the former justice to take a broad look at how officers interact with people in crisis and to come up with recommendations on how to improve policing.
Among the list of 84 recommendations was increased use of Tasers, also known as stun guns, mental health training and using body cameras on frontline officers.
Larkin says he plans to thoroughly review all of Iacobucci's recommendations to see which could be implemented in the Waterloo Region police force, adding that he is open to using Tasers in conjunction with other resources.
"We believe that it adds an additional tool in the toolbox," said Larkin.
"It doesn't solve all of the challenges, it doesn't solve all of the issues, it doesn't fill all of the gaps but certainly enhanced training along with the conducted energy weapon simply provides another non-lethal opportunity."
Still, Larkin said training, especially when it comes to mental health calls, needs to be a priority.
"The nexus to much of this is really a larger discussion around mental health and the health care system and how policing intersects daily," said Larkin.
"Training is really crucial to everything that we're doing. It's really the foundation of what we do as police officers."