De-Escalation and Appropriate Use of Force Policy - Public Consultation
The Toronto Police Services Board (the Board) is inviting members of the public to comment on a draft of a revision of the Board’s Use of Force Policy. The draft revisions are being developed with the goal of aligning the Policy with “best practices to reduce death and injuries from the use of force by Service Members and with the Ontario Provincial Use of Force Model” (recommendation 49 of the report titled “Police Reform in Toronto: Systemic Racism, Alternative Community Safety and Crisis Response Models and Building New Confidence in Public Safety,” approved by the Board on August 18, 2020).
Overview of the Draft Policy
Section 25(1) of the Criminal Code provides, with certain restrictions, that “[e]very one who is required or authorized by law to do anything in the administration or enforcement of the law … is, if he acts on reasonable grounds, justified in doing what he is required or authorized to do and in using as much force as is necessary for that purpose.”
The Board's purpose in revising the Policy is not to prevent Toronto Police Service (the Service) Members from using the force necessary to carry out their duties in good faith. Rather, the proposed revisions aim to provide Service Members with the tools and training required to enable them to make informed, compassionate decisions regarding the appropriate level of force -- if any -- that must be used in any particular interaction. The draft Policy sets, as a paramount goal, the reduction of harm, to the greatest degree possible, to ensure excellent policing services for the people of Toronto. To reflect this change in the focus of the Policy, the proposed draft Policy was renamed “De-Escalation and Appropriate Use of Force.”
In addition to emphasizing de-escalation as a key tool to be employed in resolving interactions without the use of force, the draft Policy proposes a number of tools to keep both individual officers, and the Service as a whole, accountable:
Reporting on Incidents of Use of Force
Current legislation requires police officers to fill out a Use of Force Form under certain circumstances, such as when drawing a firearm, or when using force in a way that causes injuries requiring the services of a physician, nurse or paramedic. We have heard from the community that many believe that lower levels of use of force should also be reported. Such additional reporting requirements would serve as an early warning for supervisors to identify officers who may miss opportunities for de-escalation, resulting in avoidable instances of use of force. More robust reporting on use of force incidents will also strengthen the Service’s understanding of discrepancies in the use of force and their impacts, aiding efforts to address systemic racism.
The draft revised Policy proposes that all incidents of use of physical force, defined as “techniques intended to control or stop a subject’s behaviour, which exceed mere physical contact,” will trigger a reporting requirement.
Duty to Intervene
Uniform Service Members have a duty to intervene where they identify excessive use of force by other Service Members or members of other law enforcement agencies. The draft revised Policy further clarifies and emphasizes this duty, and requires the Service to create mechanisms that will ensure Service Members do not face retaliation when intervening to stop excessive use of force.
The Role of Supervisors
Supervisors provide the first line of scrutiny of a Service Member’s conduct, and are best placed to offer additional guidance and training, and, if necessary, discipline. The draft revised Policy emphasizes the role of supervisors in identifying inappropriate use of force, missed opportunities for de-escalation, or other misconduct, including discriminatory behaviour, as well as providing guidance or discipline as necessary. This includes the review of Body-Worn Camera footage to ensure compliance with both the Board’s Policies and applicable legislation.
The draft revised Policy proposes to instruct the Chief of Police to significantly expand public access to information collected by the Service related to use of force by its Members, to enhance transparency and accountability.
The Consultation So Far
In developing the draft revised Policy, the Board Office examined the academic literature, examples of similar policies from other police services from across Canada and beyond, along with relevant reports previously released by various bodies.
The draft revised Policy also benefitted from input from both internal and external stakeholders, including the Board’s Anti-Racism Advisory Panel (ARAP), Service subject matter experts, regulatory bodies, human rights organizations, organizations representing racialized communities and youth, and academic experts. The Board is grateful to all of these organizations for their input, much of which is reflected in the draft below. Copies of the written statements provided by some of the bodies we consulted are available below. Additional written statements will be added as they become available.
The Board values input from the public on this crucial element of the Service’s interaction with members of the public. Members of the public are encouraged to review the copy of the draft revised Policy provided below, and make written submissions to the Board. Submissions will be accepted through the form provided below, or by mail.
Please note that all submissions made as part of the consultation will form part of the public record, and will be posted on the Board’s website as provided, with your name. Please ensure your submission (either as an attached file or as plain text) does not include any private information you do not wish to make public (e.g., phone number, email address, etc.). The contact information required by the form, and the field marked as "additional information" will not be made public. If you provide your submission via mail and wish to include your contact information or any additional information, please include them on a separate, clearly labeled sheet of paper. This additional information will not be considered as part of the consultation.
The Board Office will review all submissions and consider further revisions to the draft revised Policy in accordance with the feedback received, before bringing the proposed revisions before the Board for its discussion.
To assist the public in considering the different elements of the draft revised Policy, the Board Office has hosted two webinar events to review the draft revised Policy and to answer questions from the public. The webinars were livestreamed on YouTube.
- Thursday, February 2, 5pm-6:30pm (view on YouTube)
- Tuesday, February 7, 5pm-6:30pm (view on YouTube)
Submissions to Date
- Office of the Independent Police Review Director
- Toronto Police Accountability Coalition
- Linda Novick
- Kris Langenfeld
- Anti-Racism Advisory Panel
- Judith Andersen, Ph.D.
- PACER 2.0
The Board is no longer accepting submissions for this consultation. Thank you to all the individuals and organizations who submitted their comments.