Judith Andersen, Ph.D.
Good Afternoon, Dubi
Brief Evaluative Review on the Amendment to the Toronto Police Service De-escalation and Appropriate Use of Force Report 15-01 Incident Response (Use of Force/De-escalation). February (2023).
I have completed a visual review and engaged in a verbal discussion with a TPSB member regarding the Amendment to the Toronto Police Service De-escalation and Appropriate Use of Force Report 15-01 Incident Response (Use of Force/De-escalation). The TPSB has compiled a clearly written set of documents and a web access portal that enables the public to review the proposed amendments to TPS policy regarding the use of force and de-escalation. The core of the draft policy amendments reaffirms most of the recommendations made in the science-based research report on this topic published in Andersen et al (2017), listed below, to the Ministry of the Solicitor General (formerly the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services - MCSCS). Further, the draft policy includes updates achieved in the intervening period, including recommendations such as race and identity-based data collection.
The TPSB is commended in the transparency by which they have conducted the development and publication of these draft reports and are encouraged to continue to do so. Public access, review and transparency are the essential components of any revision to police policy. The accessibility of the TPSB policy draft is further enhanced by splitting the topics into discrete sections and providing definitions to the public (e.g., intermediate force options, weapons of opportunity, fleeing suspect), much of which was previously inaccessible or very difficult to access and did not facilitate public understanding. Core advancements in policy recommendations include: the requirement for additional detail in use of force reporting; the responsibility of senior officers/unit commanders to follow up on use of force incidents ensuring the correct reports are filed; the requisite investigation of each event is initiated and completed. Further, the requirement for reviewing body worn camera footage, in addition to other reviewed documentation, is progress. Most actionable sections of the 15-01 Incident Response (Use of Force/De-escalation) report are directly indexed with the TPS policy number, facilitating faster and more transparent public and investigative board review procedures following a use of force incident. Hopefully, this means that any reviewing body, including the public, may follow along on all required actions that should take place by a particular person following a use of force incident (e.g., the unit supervisor should do the following - etc) and hold accountable that person for actions regarding handling of said incident. The section on Excessive force remains short and very subjective, lacking substantive improvement. A suggested remedy is the adoption of a new use of force/de-escalation model and associated training as described below. However, the Duty to Report and Intervene is a significant advancement and promising, if enforced. Recommendations should include clear description on how a fellow officer, particularly a subordinate officer, would be protected from hierarchical organizational retaliation upon reporting (or intervening) to stop inappropriate use of force, an issue that has long remained unsolved. Promisingly, and at long last, the policy integrates recommendations from the Anti-Racism Act, 2017, such as race and identity-based reporting, citing the specific report to be filed and the associated regulatory policy.
The De-escalation and Appropriate Use of Force draft policy is based centrally on the Ontario Provincial Use of Force Model, reportedly to remain in step with the Ministry. The stated purpose(s) of the TPSB's policy include essential components such as eliminating excessive force, ensuring de-escalation and communication rather than force, etc (pg. 2). However, the Ontario UOF Model, a long-outdated document (20+ years) and associated training does not meet basic accessibility standards and is simply not designed to serve as a framework to achieve the TPSB's stated goals. The public is urged to review the documented evidence that shows this to be the case (for examples see Dubè, 2016; Andersen et al., 2017;2018; Di Nota et al., 2021; Huey et al., 2021). Despite years of public and practitioner demand for complete reform to the Ontario UOF Model and associated training, it has received only insubstantial updates (e.g., adding the word de-escalation) to quell public scrutiny. Based on the historical lack of change, TPSB is urged to break from the outdated framework and training to progress towards achieving stated goals. Components of an evidence-based framework and training are publicly accessible (see for example Huey et al., 2021 pg. 1417), and are of relevance to assisting persons in crisis. Additional components included in the TPSB's De-escalation and Appropriate Use of Force draft policy such as public review of annual reporting on use of force, tracking and public display of use of force statistics in plain language and further inquiry by TPSB into firearms related injury or death are important advancements. Throughout the document, the word 'ensure' is used quite often (e.g., #24 Ensure that In Service Training Program includes). TPSB is encouraged to define the procedures by which these principles will be ensured.
Publications referenced above are freely accessible
Huey L, Andersen J, Bennell C, Ann Campbell M, Koziarski J, and Vaughan AD. (2021). Caught in the currents: evaluating the evidence for common downstream police response interventions in calls involving persons with mental illness. FACETS 6: 1409–1445. doi:10.1139/facets-2021-0055
Di Nota, P., Stoyko, P., Jenkinson, J., Boychuk, E., & Andersen, J. (2021). Critical Review of Visual Models for Police Use of Force Decision-Making. Vision 5(1).
Dubè (2016). A Matter of Life and Death. Investigation into the direction provided by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to Ontario’s police services for de-escalation of conflict situations.
Andersen, J. P., Boychuk, E. C., Di Nota, P., Back, D., & Poplawski, S. (2018). A Decision Making Model for Police. Scientific Review of Police Decision Making and Visual Model Development. Government of Ontario, Ministry for Community Safety and Correctional Services, July 2018. Weblink: https://hartlab.net/policy-recommendations-for-police-training/
Andersen, J.P., Di Nota, P.M., Poplawski, S., Pitel, M., Zurowski, J., and Azmi, P. (2017). The Science Behind De-escalation and Use of Force Decision-Making: Policy Recommendations for Police Training. Submitted to Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, June 2017. Weblink: https://hartlab.net/policy-recommendations-for-police-training/
Judith P. Andersen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Affiliated Faculty of Medicine | University of Toronto
Director: Health, Adaptation, Research on Trauma Lab