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Retired judge reviewing Toronto police is with law firm that has police links

Justice Dennis O'Connor speaks in Ottawa, Ont. on Dec 12, 2006

TOM HANSON/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Toronto's police chief is defending his choice of a retired judge to assist in an internal review of the force following the death of an 18-year-old.

Bill Blair announced on Monday that Dennis O'Connor would help him in a review of police use of force in dealing with emotionally disturbed people.

Blair revealed Wednesday that the law firm O'Connor is with — Borden Ladner Gervais — has acted for the insurers of the Toronto Police Service in civil suits.

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Blair said he and O'Connor are satisfied that his association with BLG will not impair his ability to give sound advice on the matters under review.

The chief also stressed that he hasn't asked O'Connor to investigate or make factual findings about past incidents, but to review Toronto police policies, procedures, and training.

Blair called for the review following the death last month of Sammy Yatim, who was shot and Tasered by police on an empty streetcar.

A review by the chief of police is mandated under the Police Services Act in Yatim's death because the Special Investigations Unit is involved.

Blair said Monday that O'Connor's review will look beyond his case, and will include an international review of established best practices.

Ontario's ombudsman has also launched an investigation, probing what kind of direction the provincial government provides to police for defusing conflict situations.

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