VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Toronto police Const. Ken Lam has earned some unlikely fame as “the cop who didn’t shoot”.
Lam can be seen in witness photos and video confronting the suspect in Monday’s van rampage, which left 10 people dead and 15 others injured.
Even though the suspect points an object at him in a threatening manner, and can be heard saying “I have a gun in my pocket,” Lam does not fire his weapon. Instead, he takes out a baton, walks toward the suspect, and handcuffs him.
“What’s really important to understand is what you saw [Monday] is the norm in Canadian policing, it’s not an aberration,” says retired Vancouver police officer Joel Johnston, who served as the department’s Use of Force Coordinator from 1990 to 1998.
Johnston says since late 2000, police departments across Canada have been training officers using the National Use of Force Framework; a model for dealing with potentially dangerous situations with an emphasis on de-escalation.
“This is core to police training… constantly assessing and reassessing what’s going on, and sort of choosing their course of action as time goes on,” he explains.
Thanks in part to that model, Johnston says police in Canada refrain from using their firearms, or any force whatsoever, in the vast majority of their interactions with the public.
However, he adds the circumstances in any given situation will be different, making it difficult to compare the events in Toronto to other high-profile police incidents.
“Certainly if that situation in Toronto had occurred in darkness, the outcome may have been different.”
Speaking to reporters, Toronto police chief Mark Saunders said the way Monday’s arrest played out is “nothing short of remarkable”, but later added that after speaking with Const. Lam, “he basically expresses he defaulted to his training under the circumstance.”
Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ontario is currently facing 10 counts of first-degree murder and over a dozen counts of attempted murder.