Response to Iacobucci Report
July 24 2014
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition on the Iacobucci Report
July 24, 2014.
Reading the recommendation of Frank Iacobucci in his report `Police Encounters with People in Crisis, one is reminded of Albert Einsteins definition of insanity: doing the same things over and over again and expecting to get different results.
That is largely the approach taken in this report. Mr. Iacobucci recommends that police need better training; supervisors need better training; police need better liaison with mental health agencies; recruit selection procedures need to be better; discipline procedures need to be better; the police service needs to write down its statement of policies and principles; more study needs to be done on the effectiveness of police training.
These are the kinds of recommendations that have been made by coroners juries for more than a decade, and as we know from the deaths of Sammy Yatim and others, they have not been effective at making the changes needed. Why should we expect any difference this time around?
Mr. Iacobucci had the chance to recommend significant change and he did not. He could have recommended that those with the most expertise in dealing with those in mental crisis in Toronto the Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams be first responders in mental crisis calls, but he does not. Instead he recommends (No. 3) they be `notified of every call when it is received, a slight change from the current arrangement of being notified when the officers arrive on the scene.
Mr. Iacobucci notes that in Hamilton, Ontario the mental health team is a first responder. We told the Toronto Police Service Board that this was the case a year ago but Deputy Chief Mike Federico who is in charge of the MCITs, told the Board that we were wrong, and there were no first mental health responders in Ontario . Thats the kind of problem we have: the senior person who is in charge of these matters does not seem open to looking for the good practices and policies, but instead challenges those with different and more accurate information.
At some point Mr. Iacobucci seems to hope that those with mental health training will be first responders, saying the service should develop such a program. (No. 43) He never says why the current MCITs should not immediately be first responders where and when they are available (since they are currently not in all divisions and not 24 hours a day.)
Mr. Iacobucci could have said the Toronto police service should change its recruitment policy to make a job description which says it specifically wants to hire people with a mental health background, but he does not. Instead, he thinks the police should be more selective in its general recruiting (No. 6, 7, 8, 10) with better screening of those recruited (No. 11, 12, 13). People have suggested these changes for the last decade and it hasnt been effective. He says the service should consider whether to recruit those who have special training (No. 9) - maybe in ten years we could see this change, maybe not.
Mr. Iacobucci suggests that conducted energy weapons should be made more available to Toronto police in a pilot project which is subject to much scrutiny. (No. 52). The Toronto police service will love this recommendation and we believe they will press to implement this recommendation as a priority since it is how they really want to deal with those in mental crisis, and last year recommended that several million dollars be spent on these weapons. It is the wrong approach. We should not spend any more money on conducted energy weapons or other Use of Force options.
Whats needed is a serious change in the police culture of command and control. Mr. Iacobucci hardly addresses this issue, instead asking for a refinement of the Use of Force model (No. 41) to include de-escalation as a tactic. It is the old approach of just adding things on to what the police already do rather than being clear that there must be change in the way police act.
Mr. Iacobucci had a real opportunity to make change which would ensure our police force could respond well to those in mental crisis, but he seems to have not taken the opportunity. We are disappointed. This was not money well spent.
Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
Click on related document below:
TPAC media release on Iacobucci.doc