The Toronto police board has voted unanimously in favour of forming an external mental health advisory committee comprised of mental health experts and hospital leaders to assess the Toronto police force and its board when it comes to dealing with people experiencing mental illness.
The Toronto police board voted unanimously Wednesday to create an external mental health advisory committee comprised of mental health experts and hospital leaders to assess the Toronto police force and its board on dealing with people experiencing mental illness.
Board chair Andy Pringle says he wanted to form a group to annually conduct an independent evaluation on everything from training to use of force options when it comes to safely dealing with people in crisis.
The aim is to ensure “we are the best in class in mental health,” Pringle said after the public board meeting at police headquarters, where the committee was approved without discussion.
Pringle said he hopes the advisory group will provide the oversight that was originally intended expected from the so-called Iacobucci report advisory committee, group specifically tasked with monitoring the implementation of the report on Toronto police use of force.
Commissioned after the July 2013 shooting death of Sammy Yatim by Toronto police Const. James Forcillo, the report — penned by retired Supreme Court of Canada justice Frank Iacobucci — made 84 recommendations to reduce fatal encounters between Toronto police and people in crisis, including mental-health crisis.
Among them was the establishment of an advisory committee to oversee the implementation process. A committee of mental-health experts was formed, but its members complained it met infrequently. Pringle said Wednesday the group would no longer meet, which is why he suggested the broader committee.
Last fall, the Toronto police released a detailed breakdown regarding Iacobucci’s recommendations, as well as those that came out of a triple inquest into the deaths of three people in crisis shot dead by Toronto police. According to that report, Toronto police have implemented, in full or in part, 79 of Iacobucci’s 84 recommendations.
But critics have said it is not enough to take the word of the Toronto police on implementation.
Julian Falconer, a veteran Toronto criminal lawyer who is representing members of Yatim’s family in a civil suit, has called for an independent audit of the Iacobucci report.
“No matter the propaganda and public relations exercise they put you through about implementing those 84 recommendations, the truth is that the heart of those recommendations has yet to be fully implemented,” Falconer said last month, after Forcillo was found guilty of attempted murder in Yatim’s death.
In an interview with the Star earlier this month, Ontario’s independent police review director Gerry McNeilly said his office may be the one most suited to taking a close look at the Toronto police response to use-of-force recommendations. McNeilly said he would soon be calling for Toronto police provide him with a breakdown of actions on various recommendations from use-of-force reports and coroner’s inquests.
“We want to see what’s being done,” McNeilly said. “I just don’t want them to tell me they did it — show me how you did it.”
Asked Wednesday if there is a need for an independent audit of the Iacobucci report implementation, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders would not comment directly, but said the force has taken the report “very seriously.”
“I don’t mind transparency. If people want to look and see what we have already done, so be it, I am fine,” Saunders said. “But I’m certainly not going to lead from behind.”