An advocacy group is calling on the Ontario government to make crisis intervention and de-escalation training mandatory for those studying to become Police officers in the province.
The Toronto chapter of the Innocence Project is pushing to amend the Police Services Act in what it says is an effort to address police shootings of people with mental illness.
The proposed amendment would make such training a requirement of the Ontario Police College, which trains and certifies police recruits once they have been hired.
The group says it plans to launch a constitutional challenge over the issue if the province doesn’t take action before Jan. 2 of next year.
The group made its request in a letter delivered Wednesday to Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and Community Safety Minister Marie-France Lalonde.
Naqvi said the province is already working to update the Police Services Act but did not say whether that would include the change requested by the group.
“Part of the work is looking at training, looking at how police interact with people with mental health issues and techniques and strategies around de-escalation,” he said.
In its letter, the group says more than 30 coroner’s inquests since the late 1970s have made recommendations for improved training in interacting with people with mental illness, as have several government-commissioned reports.
“This government has a choice between engaging in several years of litigation, or adding several words to an existing statute,” it says.
“There need not be more waiting; there need not be more patience. The issue can be dealt with now. The government has failed to carry through on its promises to us. The lives of Ontarians are at stake.”
Making this training mandatory at the college level is the only way to ensure it is delivered in a standardized way, the group says.
Paola Loriggio , The Canadian Press
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