Better police training, reporting on use of force...
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May 21, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Better police training, reporting on use of force needed, report urges

Most Canadian police forces still do not collect the right kind of in-depth data on when they resort to pulling their weapons or using force, a new report says.


OTTAWA—Most Canadian police forces still do not collect the right kind of in-depth data on when they resort to pulling their weapons or using force, nor do they receive sufficient mental health training to de-escalate confrontations that may turn deadly, a new report says.

The Star obtained a copy of the research report commissioned by the federal public safety department after the Toronto police shooting of Sammy Yatim in 2013. It takes a comprehensive look at how police forces in Canada and the U.S. track their officers’ use of force in encounters between police and members of the public.

Its main conclusion is that, despite years of high-profile and critical inquiries into police actions in, for example, the Yatim shooting, the Vancouver police shooting of Paul Boyd, or the RCMP tasering of Robert Dziekanski, a consistent national approach is needed towards documenting when and why cops use force against citizens.

It also urges more substantial mental health training for frontline officers who confront troubled individuals, too, saying the research clearly shows officers who receive extensive training successfully de-escalate tensions and are less likely to use deadly force.

The report concludes it’s not merely a matter of public safety, but officer safety as well, because police officers often suffer injuries when situations turn violent.

Federal public safety officials and police forces across the country have the report in hand, but it has not been publicly posted.

Ontario government officials are now reviewing its findings, along with a draft report of a systemic investigation by the provincial ombudsman’s office into what direction the province provides to police on use of force and de-escalation techniques, expected to be released within weeks.

Ian McPhail, chair of the RCMP’s civilian watchdog body, said in an interview that a consistent national approach would absolutely be beneficial, but may be seen as too costly to implement. Yet he said it may lead to a reduction in use of force, pointing to how Taser use by Mounties dropped over the commission’s three-year review of RCMP policies and practices after Dziekanski’s death in 2007.

The latest report, authored by independent consultants John Kiedrowski, Ronald-Frans Melchers, Michael Petrunik, and Christopher Maxwell, explores what it says are two of the best approaches to documenting use of force.

The goal of both is to provide a 360-degree look at a subject’s behaviour as well as the officer’s response, and to use consistent definitions of what constitutes “force” to collect narrative data as well as statistics that could be analyzed for trends.

In Canada, such analysis could reveal whether use-of-force injury suffered by an officer or a suspect is related to demographic factors like race or ethnicity, or tied to a police officer’s work shift, stress levels, or other indicators such as sleep deprivation, it says.

When used to study actions by officers in six U.S. police forces, the analysis showed officers responding to a priority call, or with lights and sirens blazing, are consistently likely to use more force; younger police officers, and officers who previously received medical attention for injuries received on the job, are more likely to use physical force.

And a citizen was more likely to use force against police when alcohol-impaired, when there is a greater number of police officers than normal, when bystanders are present, and when violent offences or gang-related activities are involved. Police also tend to use less physical force if they perceive the subject to be a member of a gang or associated in some way with a gang.

Toronto Star

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