Helping police forces develop best practices to keep Ontarians safe.
Training the police for extreme-stress conditions
The University of Toronto Mississauga’s Judith Andersen, an associate professor in the department of psychology, has been working with Peel Regional Police to implement science-based use-of-force training that will help officers control stress and hone their split-second decision-making skills. Research has shown that extreme stress in dangerous policing situations can lead to physiological changes that affects officers’ judgment and can lead to bad decisions. Prof. Andersen was the lead developer of the International Performance Resilience and Efficiency Program (iPREP), a training program that is already being used in Finland, and which is now being piloted in Peel.
Racial profiling study guides policing reforms in Ottawa
York University professors undertook the largest-ever Canadian study of police-based racial profiling to help the Ottawa Police Service enact new guidelines for officers. The Traffic Stop Race Data Collection Project analyzed 81,902 records of traffic stops in Ottawa, and found that middle-eastern drivers were stopped 3.3 times and black drivers were stopped 2.3 times higher than their ratios in the total driving population of Ottawa. The Ottawa Police Services Board instructed the force to implement the recommendations in the report to reduce racial profiling incidents.
Training officers for scenarios involving mental illness
Of the many challenging situations faced by police officers, few are more difficult than responding to an individual going through a mental illness crisis. Mental health issues touch everyone, and one in five Canadians experiences a mental health problem at some point. Associate Professor Jennifer Lavoie of Wilfrid Laurier University’s Department of Criminology is working to help police services improve the way they respond to people in mental health crises. Along with a team of specialists, Lavoie’s research is developing a scenario-based program to teach police officers how to de-escalate situations to reduce unnecessary instances of the use-of-force. There is currently very little standardized training for police on mental health issues, but with a more informed perspective, officers should be able to tell when a situation involves imminent threat and, if not, move into de-escalation techniques and avoid the use of force.