By Dr David Laing Dawson
As much as I know the shooting death of Sammy Yatim was entirely unnecessary, and as much as I know by simply looking at pictures of Constable James Forcillo that he is pugnacious by nature and that his fear/aggression response is close to the surface, easily triggered, I still have qualms about his conviction and sentence.
We put the gun in his hand. We assigned him to that job.
And in doing so we made one of two mistakes. Either he and his fellow officers were not sufficiently trained and prepared, or wrongly trained and prepared, or he is not a man we should have put in that position in the first place.
If 99 out of 100 officers could have resolved that event peacefully, without anyone getting hurt, then Constable Forcillo should have been reassigned years ago. To a desk job, community liaison work, anything not requiring a gun.
If only 40 out of 100 officers could have resolved that event peacefully, without anyone getting hurt, then their training and supervision is wrong. Tragically wrong.
I know it can be a combination of both. But those are the two tools we have: Screen and monitor our officers for signs that their primitive fear/aggression response is dangerously close to ignition, and train, train, train them to react differently in those situations.
See previous blogs on police training at https://dawsonross.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/on-improving-police-confrontations-with-the-mentally-ill/ and https://dawsonross.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/on-improving-police-confrontations-with-the-mentally-ill/.