Gary Pieters, President of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations at the Press Conference on Policing with a copy of the Saving Lives: Alternatives to the Use of Lethal Force by Police Report
Slideshow of Media Conference
LIVE BLOGGING/TWEETING from Toronto Star Reporter Tim Alamenciak
VIDEO Watch the Press Conference Here 08/13/2013
AUDIO Listen to the interview Calling on Police to Revise Use of Deadly Force Policies CBC Here and Now
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Urban Alliance on Race Relations Speaking Notes for Press Conference calling for better oversight, monitoring and training of police officers serving the diverse populations of the Greater Toronto area
Thank you for attending this press conference.
Promoting harmonious relations within our diverse city is foremost in the education, research and advocacy functions of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations.
We have come together to focus on better training, oversight and monitoring of the training that our police officers receive and the importance of investing in such training to build a solid relationship between our police service and the public.
To protect and serve involve mental health training to better meet the needs of vulnerable populations.
Today a family is without their son. The tragedy is that this could have been avoided. The fatal shooting of Sammy Yatim and the immediate public outcry brought back painful memories of the numerous victims of police violence in Toronto. We also see similar patterns of lethal use of force in other large cities across Ontario and Canada.
For those of us with long memories, there have been many similar fatal police shootings in Toronto dating back to the late 1970s, picking up speed in the 1990s that often involved racialized men, many of whom were also mental health survivors.
After much soul-searching among community members through the years, the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, together with the then Queen Street Patients Council organized a timely conference in June 2000 called Saving Lives: Alternatives to the Use of Lethal Force by Police at Osgoode Hall, Law Society of Upper Canada. The conference was co-sponsored by many community-based organizations like the Aboriginal Legal Services, the Black Action Defence Committee, the Chinese Canadian National Council-Toronto Chapter as well as the Toronto Police Service.
The four main topics of discussion of the conference were: less-than-lethal technology, mental health issues, issues of race in police shootings and barriers to change. And in the words of the organizers, the purpose of the event was to build bridges, to find solutions and to bring together our diverse communities, police and other public officials to work much harder to save lives and improve the quality of life of Toronto.
A lot of work has been done. Issues were identified and recommendations were made. The full conference report together with an extensive list of 27 recommendations on many fronts including mental health and psychiatric survivors, community policing, transparency and accountability, and Mobile Crisis Teams are as relevant today as they were when the report ‘Saving Lives: Alternatives to the Use of Lethal Force by Police’ was published in 2002.
Reflecting now on yet another police shooting, it is difficult not to be cynical and ask: after all these years of public concern and effort to bring police into the conversation so that we are not just talking to ourselves, why is there still such a disconnect between police training and the behavior of some of the rank and file officers?
Why was Sammy Yatim shot at 9 times while he was down, then tasered?
There are many questions not being asked and many answers not being provided.
There are mechanisms that exist to hold our police accountable to their oath to build public trust and public confidence to ‘serve and protect’. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU); The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD); The Policing Standards Division of the Public Safety Unit of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services; the Toronto Police Services Board; The Police Services Act; The Ontario Ombudsman among others.
With all these bodies entrusted with protecting the ‘public interest’ Who among them is monitoring, asking questions, receiving answers and who is the police accountable to?
We are dismayed that we have to start all over again to question the system of police training, accountability and oversight and the administration of justice in addressing policing and police conduct.
However, we believe that the police must be prepared to listen, accept and acknowledge mistakes, make the necessary corrections of deficiencies, and be prepared to accept help and additional assistance when needed from community-based organizations, mental health professional, interpreters and translators, social workers and people at all levels of society who understand and can educate on the complexity of risk factors in dealing with increasing diverse and vulnerable citizens of this city.
We hope that this press conference and the subsequent rally will be an opportunity to translate our energies towards meaningful solutions for the good of the community and the betterment of policing in this diverse city.
We urge greater political will from our elected officials and public oversight bodies to rebuild public trust in our policing, law enforcement and public safety mechanisms in this diverse city.
We want to see results! That’s all we ask.
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