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Retired judge to assist Toronto police in use-of-force review

TORONTO – Police Chief Bill Blair has asked former chief justice Dennis O’Connor to spearhead a review of the Toronto Police Service’s use of force.

The announcement Monday comes two weeks after Toronto police were involved in the shooting death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim aboard the 505 Dundas Street West streetcar. A protest was planned outside of Tuesday’s Toronto Police Services Board meeting.

O’Connor review all police practices, including use of force as part of a review required by the Toronto Police Services Act.

“If there’s ways in which we can improve our response, we are committed to doing that,” Blair said at an afternoon press conference. “I suspect the Chief Justice will look as far as he has to.”

Blair said he has asked O’Connor to make recommendations and examine best practices from international police agencies.

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The review will also examine the equipment used by Toronto police.

The investigation is the third sparked so far by the July shooting. The Special Investigations Unit is investigating the shooting, as it does every police-involved death. Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin is reviewing police policies for defusing crisis situations.

O’Connor served on the Ontario Court of Appeal from 1998 to 2012 and was Associate Chief Justice of Ontario from 2001 to his retirement in 2012.

He also led public inquiries into tainted water in Walkerton, Ontario and the Maher Arar inquiry on behalf of the federal government.

Yatim was alone on the streetcar, wielding a knife, when he was shot multiple times in July.

In amateur video of the incident, nine gunshots can be heard but it’s unclear exactly how many times Yatim was shot. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

– With files from The Canadian Press