Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has permission to pay nearly double the originally estimate for a review into police use of lethal force after the death of teenager Sammy Yatim, as long as the costs are “reasonable.”
The Toronto Police Services Board’s own lawyer will first review bills of services provided by law firm Torys LLP to ensure the higher cost is reasonable, the board decided at its Thursday meeting.
“This better be a damn good report that we can actually get some recommendations [from] and the chief can actually utilize them,” said board member Michael Thompson.
Torys now estimates the review and resulting report, conducted by retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci, will cost $985,000, up from a bill of $560,000 in March. The law permits Chief Blair to make agreements only up to $500,000.
Mr. Yatim, 18, was shot nine times by Constable James Forcillo – who is facing second-degree murder charges – in July as he stood alone in a streetcar wielding a knife, surrounded by police officers.
Video uploaded to YouTube by a bystander sparked outrage about police use of force across the city.
Chief Blair retained Justice Iacobucci to conduct a review into the police service’s use of lethal force policies, practices and training in August, with services from Torys. It was originally expected to cost less than $500,000.
The money will come from the force’s legal reserve, which sets aside funds for exactly this purpose, Chief Blair said.
“It’s still public money and I’m not minimizing that,” he said. “I’m very hopeful that that’s the final cost.”
Board members were reluctant to approve the hike but said they had few other options, as Chief Blair said without their approval, he would be forced to ask Justice Iacobucci to halt the review and submit an incomplete report.
“In my mind, preventing him from completing the work is not an option,” said chair Alok Mukherjee.
Chief Blair said the cost surpassed the original estimate as the work became more complex and comprehensive.
“It took on a much greater scope than was originally anticipated,” he said. “I remain concerned about the cost. These are public dollars. But I also want to make sure that we deliver significant public value in this report.”
But firms can end up doing more work for their clients than necessary, said board member Andrew Pringle, if they’re not given clear guidelines and a cap on fees.
“You’ve asked them a question but you gave them an open end,” he said.