Yesterday, Seamus noted here the remarkable act of policing in Toronto this week: A man had just killed ten people, and injured many more, by driving into them with a van -- and he was apprehended by a single police officer who never fired a shot.
Today, the New York Times has a detailed, step-by-step reconstruction of how Toronto constable Ken Lam did this. It turns out he executed, nearly perfectly, the de-escalation techniques that Toronto police training has in recent years emphasized -- training designed specifically to prevent the jittery, screaming, confrontational police encounters we've seen too often in the US, which end in dead-and-unarmed suspects.
Read the rest
After Mr. Minassian stopped the van, he was encountered by Constable Lam. Video recordings of that high-stress confrontation, captured by a number of bystanders and stitched together by The New York Times, tell a story that can be dissected, step by step.
First, Constable Lam turned off the siren blaring from his car. This immediately lowered the temperature, experts said, making it easier for him to communicate with the suspect. Also, by leaning into the car, the officer is indicating that he is not in a rush.
“It is about slowing things down, using time and distance to de-escalate the situation,” said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum, which develops best policing practices. “The most important thing at a time like this is time and communications.”
Constable Lam continues to shout, loudly but calmly, “Get down.” The suspect replies, “Kill me.”
“No, get down,” Constable Lam repeats.