Ombudsman wants police to get better training in de-escalation techniques

Ontario's ombudsman is calling for better police training courses following concern over 19 fatal police shootings since 2013.

A rise in police shootings in Ontario prompts calls for better police training

Ontario ombudsmen Paul Dube wants police to receive better de-escalation training following his special investigation into the shooting death of Sammy Yatim in 2013. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

Ontario's ombudsman wants police to get better training in de-escalation techniques, saying they get plenty of instruction on how to use their guns, but not enough on how to use their "mouths."

Paul Dube says 19 more people have been killed in police shootings in Ontario since he opened a special investigation following the shooting death of teenager Sammy Yatim on a Toronto streetcar in July 2013.

He says inquests have shown police respond with their guns when vulnerable people are in crisis because they are following their training, which focuses on "drawing their weapons and yelling commands."

Dube says there is "ample evidence" the government needs to make the issue a priority and mandate more instruction time in de-escalation techniques, including well over 100 coroner's jury recommendations calling for improved police training.

The government watchdog says Ontario's basic police training course is among the shortest in Canada, and is more focused on how to use weapons than on finding alternatives.

Dube stresses he's not being critical of police, but of their "inadequate training" for when they face difficult and potentially dangerous situations, and says the shootings are traumatic for everyone, including the officers.

"We don't need another study or consultation to determine that police training on de-escalation is inadequate," Dube said as he released his report.

"It is not just a mater of long-overdue leadership, but of saving lives."