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Updated: Wed, 31 Jul 2013 15:29:17 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Streetcar shooting probe: watchdog says police co-operation rare



Streetcar shooting probe: watchdog says police co-operation rare

Ontario's ombudsman says that despite promises from Toronto's police chief and union that they will co-operate with the provincial investigation into the streetcar shooting death of teenager Sammy Yatim, that is typically "the exception, not the norm."

André Marin is taking a close look at this case to determine whether a wider investigation by his office is warranted, and says it may even be time for the province to direct the Toronto force about how to deal with calming crisis situations.

"I think we've reached a point where I'm going to be assessing whether, if the police as Big Brother can't fix the problem, is it time for the province as Bigger Brother to direct the police on how to do their job?"

Marin told CBC Toronto's morning radio program Metro Morning that he reacted in disbelief to the killing of Yatim, 18.

Yatim was alone on a stopped streetcar and armed with a knife when he was shot at nine times, then jolted with a Taser. The confrontation was caught on video and has been viewed more than a million times, sparking anger at what many see as a disproportionate response by police.

Ontario's police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, is looking into the incident. The SIU investigates any incident involving police when someone is killed or seriously injured.

Both police Chief Bill Blair and Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack have said they will co-operate fully with the SIU, but Marin said that's unlikely.

"The co-operation with the police in an SIU investigation is the exception, not the norm," said Marin, a former head of the SIU.

The SIU has written the Toronto police chief 82 times for issues such as failure to notify the SIU, tampering with evidence, and police lawyers writing notes on an officer's behalf even though the lawyer wasn't on scene.

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"Last year, the SIU wrote 19 letters, all of which have not been answered," he said.

Marin said Toronto police are not under his direct purview, but provincial police training facilities and the SIU are. If he launches an investigation — a decision he'll likely make within two weeks — he'll look at how the province is dealing with training.

"There have been literally dozens of inquests that have recommended measures to de-escalate this kind of conflict — better training for the officers, for example," he said. "What has the Toronto Police Service done with the results of those inquests? What has the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, the provincial government, done with the results of these inquests?"

He'll also monitor the co-operation between the SIU and the Toronto police, but said for now he wants to keep out of the SIU's way while they investigate.

A two-part investigation dealing with each issue separately is possible, he said.

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