TORONTO – A retired judge appointed by Toronto’s police chief to lead a review of police use of force policies has announced he will no longer be involved.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair appointed Dennis O’Connor, who has conducted high-profile public inquiries and was the associate chief justice of Ontario’s Appeal court, earlier this month to conduct the review.
The probe follows not just the case of Sammy Yatim, who died last month after being shot by police on an empty streetcar, but several other fatal police shootings in recent years.
O’Connor said in a statement today that he is withdrawing from the review because he currently works for a law firm that also acts for the insurers of the Toronto Police in civil suits, some of which include allegations of excessive and lethal force.
He says neither he nor Blair thought his association with Borden Ladner Gervais would affect the advice he would give, but lawyers for some victims’ families raised objections.
O’Connor says he and Blair had thought he could structure the review to satisfy their concerns, but he is deciding to step back so that the issue doesn’t distract from the work of the review.
“I regret that this issue has arisen but I am of the view that if there is any possibility of concern in a matter such as this, it is best to address it at the outset,” said O’Connor in a statement.
Blair also issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, and said,”I have great respect for Mr. O’Connor and his work and I understand his decision.”
Blair will make an announcement regarding a replacement for the internal review on Aug. 30.