The mayor of Toronto was impressed by a police training session that appeared to show that officers are on the right track towards improving how they deal with people in crisis.
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"They're trying to dissolve the uniform," John Tory said of police officers while speaking to reporters Wednesday. "The single thing they tried to emphasis … the most important tool they have … is their brain."
The mayor said officers discussed "thinking about hooks and triggers" to avoid being provocative while trying to positively engage citizens in empathetic ways.
"It's a difficult challenge for a police officer because they confront a situation within minutes," Tory said, adding officers have to quickly transform themselves "from an authority figure to an influence figure."
Officers are benefitting from an extra day of training aimed specifically at dealing with people in crisis situations, he said.
"A lot of that time is being spent on how to deal with other people," the mayor noted. "They've used best practices from around the world."
Tory recently said "we must learn" and "we must do more" in a statement posted on Twitter aimed at sharing his condolences with the family of Sammy Yatim. The 18-year-old was shot to death by Toronto police Const. James Forcillo while refusing to drop a knife on a TTC streetcar. A guilty verdict was reached in the case on Monday but the officer has yet to be sentenced for attempted murder.
'The single thing they tried to emphasis … the most important tool they have … is their brain.' - John Tory, mayor of Toronto on police training
Following the incident, former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci put forward 84 recommendations for police in a report published in July 2014. The changes are aimed at better dealing with people in crisis.
Bill Blair, who was Toronto's police chief when the report was released, said he would implement all of the recommendations suggested by the Iacobucci. Last September, Chief Mark Saunders said police would focus on "de-escalation" in dealing with people possibly dealing with mental health issues.
Those calming tactics were on display for the mayor who said he was "extremely impressed by the professionalism" and added that all people could benefit from the skills taught in the training session, saying a lot of it involves common sense and would serve people well in how they approach and treat one another.
"We're not doing as well as we could," Tory said, but the training session proved to him that "there's a real commitment to try to do better."