By Trevor Busch
The Taber Police Service has completed their annual Use of Force Report 2019 with incidents and occurrences largely consistent with the volume of statistics analyzed in 2018.
In 2019, TPS officers dealt with 5,173 occurrences, which resulted in 26 control tactics reports, 10 single member incidents, 16 multiple member incidents, and two destroy animal incidents. Four of the reports in 2019 were linked to other control tactics reports associated with the same incident, which indicates a total of 22 use of force incidents. In 2018 there were 30 reports with nine linked to the same incident, which indicates there were a total of 21 use of force incidents.
“Looking at previous years, with the number of control tactics reports that we had, and the number of use of force incidents, it’s kind of the same as last year, 2018,” said Sr. Cst. Tim Johnson at the Taber Municipal Police Commission’s Feb. 19 meeting. “That’s kind of where we saw a big jump from what we had in previous years. It kind of shows maybe somewhat of a trend — last year wasn’t just a one-off, we kind of had the same consistent number of use of force incidents.”
Force occurred during initial contact (13), while placing under arrest (7), and transporting (4).
Statistics related to effective officer response show the vast majority involved the hands, control instruments, or verbal directions, however O.C. Spray was deployed once, while a conducted energy weapon (CEW, or Taser) was laser aimed (1), displayed (1), and fired (1). The TPS’ non-lethal munitions program, featuring shotguns that fire sock rounds, saw the weapons displayed twice in 2019.
“I was actually quite proud of the membership for that one. Basically they were trying to arrest this female, she was fleeing — reading the report it sounded like quite the situation,” said Johnson in relation to one of the CEW-related incidents. “She was falling all over and ended up getting back to her room, and took a needle that was full of some kind of substance — a drug, or something else — and stuck it into her leg, she was going to inject herself. The member stopped her from doing that, because they weren’t sure what was in that or what it was going to do, and actually deployed the Taser to stop it. While the Taser was working, they actually went over and pulled the needle out of her leg.”
Ineffective officer responses were categorized as verbal direction (18), control instruments (1), empty hand – soft (2), empty hand – hard (1), CEW – Taser fired (1), CEW displayed only (2).
“Verbal direction was again the most ineffective control used, although I believe this illustrates our members are employing this as a first resort,” stated Johnson in his report. “The incident of a soft empty hand technique (holding technique) being ineffective is not necessarily a concern as it is a lower level of force and the effectiveness largely depends on how motivated the subject is not to comply. The ineffective use of the CEW being fired was not due to a malfunction of the device, but was due to one of the probes not making contact with the subject. Probes not making contact with a subject during a CEW deployment is always considered and members have practiced such scenarios in training as it can quite easily occur. In the above noted incident a member deployed a second CEW, which was effective in subduing the subject.”
Effective use of a firearm/lethal force included pistol – low ready (2), pistol – pointed (1) and pistol – fired/animal (2).
“Not including the use of a firearm in the destruction of an animal, there were three situations where a member effectively used a firearm. In the three situations in which a member used their pistol, the risk of grievous bodily harm or death was considered and deemed appropriate when reviewed by a supervisor,” said Johnson in his report.
Officers dealt with a cooperative subject (1), low level resisters (3), high level resisters (11), assaultive (4), and risk of grievous bodily harm or death (5).
“The number of assaultive subjects has decreased from 15 in 2018,” reads a statement in the report. “The number of subjects perceived as being a high level resister has increased from nine in 2018.”
Most subjects experienced no injury (17), minor injury not requiring treatment (5), and injury requiring treatment (2). The two injuries requiring treatment pertained to the same subject regarding the same incident. The injury was due to two deployments of the CEW by two different members in which one deployment was ineffective. Policy requires members to seek medical attention for a subject involved in the deployment of a CEW. The subject in question had minor injuries from the CEW deployment.
Officers experienced no visible injury (25), and minor injury not requiring treatment (1).
Although identities are redacted, one TPS officer had seven control tactics reports in 2019, followed by another with four, two with three, two with two, and five with one each. However, it was noted the officer with the highest number in 2019 did not have the highest number in 2018.
“The number of Control Tactics Reports in 2019 is consistent with the amount of reports in 2018,” concluded Johnson in his report. “This could be seen as somewhat concerning as it may indicate a trend within the community regarding the type of subjects members are required to deal with. Previous years consistently had fewer incidents where the use of force was required. The review of each use of force incident has not shown a behavioral change of the membership to be the cause if the increase in reports. The review of reports in 2019 has shown that 13 of the subjects involved were believed to be under the influence of drugs. This is consistent 2018 reports. In 2017 only two of the reports involved a subject believed to be under the influence of drugs.”