The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) has produced a video addressing public concerns about “use of force” issues, an initiative that has the support of the Barrie Police Service.
The video features OACP president Paul Cook, who is also chief of the North Bay Police Service, relates a press release.
“Many chiefs of police and other senior police leaders have told me that they regularly receive questions about how their officers make choices about use of force while carrying out their duties,” said Chief Cook. “I am pleased to provide some basic information for our citizens, and encourage Ontarians to get the facts about how police officers make important decisions when protecting their fellow citizens.”
Cook noted that given high-profile media reports about some interactions between police and members of the public, it’s understandable that members of the public might have concerns about how officers use force in carrying out their duties. But, he emphasized that suggestions that current police use of force training is inadequate, or that officers do not try to deescalate interactions with members of the public, are wrong.
“Every police officer takes an oath to protect the public and use their policing powers for public safety. As police leaders, we strongly support having civilian oversight bodies hold us accountable. We have a duty to hold our officers accountable for their actions.”
Cook also noted that while the OACP and police services across the province continue to work with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services on use of force issues related to mental health interactions, the focus of current reviews should be on preventing situations in which police must become involved.
“Inquiries on police use of force involving mental health issues should focus on how the government of Ontario can put in place mechanisms to help achieve adequate funding and support for mental health programs and services which would identify and treat individuals suffering from mental health issues,” said Cook. “Our officers will always respond when public safety is at risk. But mental health is not a core police function. Citizens experiencing mental health challenges require a health and social services response, not a law enforcement response.”