Ontario’s ombudsman isn’t mincing words when it comes to police officers’ use of de-escalation tactics.

“Ontario officers have plenty of training on how to use their guns, but not enough on how to use their mouths,” Paul Dubé says in his new report investigating police use of force, which was released Wednesday.

The report was commissioned in 2013, after a Toronto Police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Sammy Yatim on a streetcar.

Since then, the report notes, 19 other people have been killed by police in Ontario – including Kitchener resident Beau Baker. Witnesses to Baker’s shooting said that although the young man was holding a knife, he was visibly in crisis at the time.

Dubé says policing officials need to do more to prioritize teaching de-escalation techniques.

He draws attention specifically to the training program at the Ontario Police College, which he says is one of the shortest in Canada and too focused on the use of weapons.

Basic training at the OPC is a 12-week program, including 7.5 hours spent on what the college calls “communication and de-escalation.”

Even once recruits leave the college, the ombudsman says, de-escalation training can vary wildly from police service to police service – with the only legal requirement being one day per year of use-of-force training, which doesn’t have to include de-escalation.

“They should have better tools to deal with people in crisis, to better determine when to use force and when to de-escalate; to preserve lives,” Dubé says.

According to the report, more than 40 people experiencing mental illness issues have been killed by Ontario police officers since 2000.

The report doesn’t only blame police training practices. It also takes aim at the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services for what Dubé terms a “laissez-fair approach” that reduces the public’s faith in policing.

Speaking at Queen’s Park, minister David Orazietti said he accepted the ombudsman’s recommendations.

“I recognize that things need to change,” he told reporters.

For others, the report didn’t go far enough.

Davin Charney, who is representing Baker’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit against Waterloo Region’s police board and chief, says a number of police shooting deaths are “preventable” and blame ultimately lies with the government.

“If there was police accountability, then police wouldn’t go directly to lethal force in order to deal with these types of difficult situations,” he said.

The ombudsman’s report was based on 95 interviews and the review of thousands of documents.

With reporting by Allison Tanner