Quebec police need more training to de-escalate crises, says former officer at fatal shooting inquest

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Quebec police need more training to de-escalate crises, says former officer at fatal shooting inquest
Pierre Coriolan was 58 when he was fatally shot by police in the hallway of his Montreal apartment building in 2017. (Huffington Post - image credit)
Pierre Coriolan was 58 when he was fatally shot by police in the hallway of his Montreal apartment building in 2017. (Huffington Post - image credit)

Police officers in Quebec require improved training to deal with citizens in a state of crisis or more tragedies are inevitable, a retired Montreal police officer told a coroner's inquest Monday.

Michael Arruda, a training specialist who retired from the SPVM in 2020 after 25 years, gave a candid assessment of the shortcomings at his former employer and other police forces across the province.

Arruda was speaking at the inquest into the death of Pierre Coriolan, a Black man shot dead by Montreal police in June 2017.

He said the training programs in place aren't sufficient and more time should be devoted to improving officers' communication skills to deal with citizens in distress.

"The more you practice, the better you'll be," Arruda said. "Repetition is the mother of skill."

Coriolan was fatally shot after six officers responded to reports of a man in crisis, yelling and breaking things, alone in his apartment in the city's Gay Village.

He was sitting on his couch, holding a screwdriver and a small steak knife, when police arrived, according to earlier inquest testimony.

The dispatcher had relayed to police that the man had mental health problems. But police weren't able to de-escalate the situation.

Coriolan was shot multiple times, after police first tried to subdue him with a Taser and then shot him with a rubber bullet.

Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes
Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes

Questions about 'quality control'

The inquest resumed Monday following an extended break through the pandemic, after a first round of testimony in February 2020.

Coroner Luc Malouin is hearing recommendations this week for how to prevent similar deaths in the future.

Montreal police have committed to having all officers complete a two-day training in "containment and de-escalation" by 2022.

Arruda said such training should be required on an ongoing basis. He added there is "very little quality control" when it comes to training provided by police, and that outside, independent organizations should be brought in to assist.

The first witness, retired SPVM officer Stéphane Wall, oversaw a team of trainers at the police force.

He said the vast majority of police interventions involving a person in a moment of crisis end without anyone getting hurt.

But he stressed there's still room for improvement.

"A death is one death too many," he said. "We are capable of going further."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

CBC
CBC
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