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Following Yatim verdict, Saunders commits to officer improvement

Last Updated Jan 26, 2016 at 7:24 am EDT

Mark Saunders, the Toronto Police chief designate, speaks to reporters while being introduced at a press conference in Toronto, April 20, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Toronto police chief Mark Saunders has an ambitious goal when it comes to how his officers deal with people in crisis – no deaths, no injuries.

Tragically, that wasn’t the case when Const. James Forcillo opened fire on a knife-wielding Sammy Yatim. On Monday, Forcillo was found guilty of attempted murder, but not guilty of second-degree murder in the teen’s 2013 death.

“The death of Sammy Yatim is a tragedy that has profoundly affected this city,” Saunders said shortly after the verdict came down.

“Whenever police take a life, tough questions must be asked and answered. There can be no legitimacy without accountability.”

Saunders wouldn’t comment directly on the Forcillo verdict, but said the case helped precipitate change.

“As a result of this tragedy, we’ve examined to the smallest detail the way in which we use force, the way we respond to people in crisis, our procedures, our training, our supervision, and the tools we provide our officers with the goal of no death, no injuries.”

More coverage:

Forcillo guilty of attempted murder, not guilty of second-degree murder

Timeline: Key dates in Yatim death and Const. Forcillo trial

Saunders vowed Toronto police would work with the appropriate agencies to address use of force in crisis situations.

“I promise my full support, along with the full support of the Toronto Police Service, to work with government, the mental health community, and whoever else can help to ensure that those in crisis get the assistance they need. They deserve nothing less.”

Forcillo, who will be free on bail, remains on paid suspension.

“I don’t think there’s any officer that wakes up and says I’m going to end up in this situation,” Saunders said. “There’s an onus on us to make sure we provide our officers with the right training and the right tools.”

That could include more non-lethal options for police.

Saunders cited recommendations from a report called Police Encounters With People in Crisis, which was prompted by Yatim’s death.

Among the report’s 84 recommendations were calls for more Tasers, body cameras and the expansion of mobile crisis intervention teams.

Currently only supervisory officers carry Tasers.

A part of the report also recommends the creation of a mental health oversight body involving members of the police force, 16 psychiatric facilities, EMS and mental health organizations.

Click here to read the entire “Police encounters with people in crisis” report.