By Trevor Busch
Use of force reports were on the rise for the Taber Police Service in 2018, and one of the key factors involved may be an escalation in drug abuse issues in the community.
In the 2018 TPS Use of Force Report presented to the Taber Municipal Police Commission on Feb. 20, control tactics reports (30) have risen significantly in comparison to previous years, including 2017 (15), 2015 (21), 2014 (14) and 2013 (17).
During review of these statistics, commissioner John MacDonald questioned if a correlation could be drawn between an increase in reports of use of force and a rise in narcotics problems plaguing the community.
“One of the things that a member tracks is if they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and 13 of the 30 Control Tactics Reports noted that the member believed they were under the influence of a drug, where last year there was only two,” said Senior Constable Tim Johnson.
Weighing in with more statistical analysis, Chief Graham Abela threw out an eye-popping percentage despite warning that actual numbers are still relatively small.
“We know that from our crime analysis that’s just underway right now that we have a 1,000 per cent increase in methamphetamine use in the community in 2018. You have to realize statistics-wise that goes from one to 11 — it’s not like it’s huge numbers, but that’s the issue. The issue is the use of stimulants — specifically crystal methamphetamine and how it rolls out with the abuser of the drug, and how they interact with police.”
Based on this, MacDonald asked if police expect to see use of force reports on the rise in lock-step with increasing drug problems in the area in 2019.
“For about the last six police commission meetings, I’ve been making note and trying to bring to the commission information with regards to the fact of the bizarre and aggressive behaviour that we encounter when people are on crystal methamphetamine,” continued Abela. “And it’s my view — although I have no data to support that statistically — correlatively I believe that the increased use of crystal methamphetamine in southern Alberta will increase the use of force application by police.”