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Published on Saturday, October 7, 2017

De-escalation is police goal

Demonstration at Police Board meeting interrupted by real world example

De-escalation is police goal
Halton Police crest logo
By Tim Whitnell, Burlington Post

When the stakes and emotions are running high, Halton police says its best to try slowing things down.

That’s the preferred strategy from a police standpoint, said the manager of the service’s training bureau, the man responsible for overseeing the instruction of approximately 700 sworn-duty officers.

“The No. 1 weapon at the disposal of our officers is our brains and how we think.” — Halton Regional Police training bureau manager Staff-Sgt. Jeff Sandy“For us, de-escalation is part of a greater model of containment,” Staff-Sgt. Jeff Sandy told a small audience, including members of the Halton Police Services Board, the chief and two deputy chiefs, during a Sept. 28 police services board meeting presentation.

Sandy said containment, of an ongoing or active crime scene that is potentially dangerous to the public, is defined as slowing a situation down.

“The No. 1 weapon at the disposal of our officers is our brains and how we think.” — Halton Regional Police training bureau manager Staff-Sgt. Jeff Sandy
Containment, he added, is seen as the ability to strategically position officers around an area or stronghold to ensure a perpetrator or suspect has no way of escape.

It is also seen as an act of moving from a state of high tension to reduced tension.

Despite all the firepower and technology available to today’s officers, Sandy said it is a less obvious aspect of policing that is the most important.

“The No. 1 weapon at the disposal of our officers is our brains and how we think.”

Sandy showed two real life videos to his audience to illustrate what he believes were less than ideal ways police handled tense and dangerous situations.

One video, shot by a TV news crew, shows a shirtless man in a large Edmonton park carrying a long-barreled gun that he held at his side mostly but occasionally raised level. He walked for several minutes with police following him at a distance.

“You’re not going to kill me, I’m going to kill myself,” the man says at one point as officers, hiding behind objects with their guns drawn, watch the man walk about.

It appears little or nothing is said by police directly to the man.

Eventually, the man is shot by police near a big white tent. He survives.

The other video is the infamous footage of the shooting of Sammy Yatim. The 18-year-old was on a TTC streetcar in Toronto in July 2013 armed with a knife. He was shot several times by officer James Forcillo and died.

Forcillo initially shot Yatim several times but was acquitted of second-degree murder; he was convicted of attempted murder for firing multiple more times as the dying Yatim lay on the streetcar’s floor.

Forcillo is out on bail and appealing his six-year jail sentence.

“I debated showing the (Yatim) video,” Sandy told his audience. “You can’t be an armchair quarterback,” he acknowledged, but noted policing is a profession, one where you have to try to make constant improvements.

“The Yatim video showed lack of (police) leadership and lack of (scene/subject) containment,” he noted.

“In these (two) videos I don’t blame the officers, I blame their training,” said Sandy. “The media, rightfully so, questions police actions,” he added.

Police everywhere are under greater scrutiny from their peers and the public. They are also experiencing an increased frequency of crisis interventions, which requires officers to have training that prepares them to decide what they might do even before they reach a scene, he said.

“We were already doing the training in those reports’ recommendations,” Sandy said.

He was referring to two recent, in-depth examinations of police actions in confrontations with the public.

One was conducted by retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci and released in July 2014. The other was penned by Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube in June 2016. Entitled A Matter of Life and Death, the latter report focused on police using de-escalation techniques before resorting to lethal force.

Sandy said a revised model to police training emphasizes three aspects — basic physical training, simple reality mental training and complex reality emotional training.

“Containment is a tool that should always be in an officer’s mind.” They should be thinking about it before they get to a scene, he said.

“Many officers go out to low-risk situations, but if containment principles aren’t applied it can become a high-risk situation.”

Officers should be thinking of possible containment scenarios and actions whenever they are called to scenes for things like domestic disturbances, break and enters and mental health crises, Sandy said.

“I would expect a 4th Class constable to be able to apply it, and (make) not a snap decision but think ahead,” he said of containment principles.

During the discussion it was mentioned that Halton police statistics indicate that just the showing of a taser by an officer to a suspect tends to de-escalate a situation.

Sandy noted all Halton police use-of-force reports are reviewed internally. Police also consult with the Halton Crown attorney’s office.

As far as officer training, Sandy said the provincial standard is once a year but that Halton police mandates block training for every officer twice a year.

“I have no issues sleeping at night knowing how well our officers are trained,” Chief Tanner said after Sandy’s presentation.

Tanner also alluded to the new Armoured Rescue Vehicle (ARV) the service bought earlier this year.

“The armoured vehicle could be a de-escalation tool at the highest end,” he told police services board members.

Board chair Burton said he views the $300,000-plus ARV as a downpayment on safety.

• • •

The Halton Police Services Board is getting its own website.

The civilian board is a provincially-mandated, independent entity that oversees Halton Regional Police, monitoring its implementation of provincial policing standards.

It currently has space on the Halton police website. The two entities will have links to each other once the new website is operating.

The new independent website will be called No date has been set for its launch.

• • •

There are currently six members on the police services board: Oakville Mayor Rob Burton is the chair; Oakville’s Barb Ferrone is the vice-chair; Oakville town/regional councilor Jeff Knoll; Burlington city/regional councilor Rick Craven; provincial appointee Jason Wadden; and regional council appointee Gary Burkett.

The board can have seven members. A seventh member, a provincial appointee, will be announced by the province sometime, said police services board executive director Julie Moscato. The vacancy occurred when Marion Yee left the board in June 2016 at the end of her appointment term.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

Categories: News

Tags: Oakville Town Council



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