July 12th, 2024

Police Commission receives presentation around use of force statistics

By MEDICINE HAT NEWS on June 21, 2024.

news@medicinehatnews.com

Members of the Medicine Hat Police Commission on Thursday heard a presentation from MHPS’s subject experts who train officers in correct use of force on the job.

Sgt. Devon Klein, in charge of the controlled tactics unit, told members of the commission that in every police interaction the potential to use force always exists, including vehicle stops, and the variety of calls police respond to daily.

Out of the tens of thousands of calls police receive each year, Klein says only about 100 lead to interactions requiring a use of force, that can theoretically result in anything from minor injuries to lethal force.

Officers are required to submit a use of force report following any incident, even in a minor use-of-force encounter.

The commission learned that in 2023 police filed 86 use-of-force reports, resulting in seven minor injuries to subjects without treatment, four minor injuries that required treatment and three serious injuries. Last year only one officer required treatment for injuries sustained on duty.

In those reports police used a TASER in 13 incidents and were required to point their handgun 22 times, however no firearms were discharged.

Police say three main factors are driving the number of use-of-force reports within the service down since 2021, including a reduction in traffic arrests due to legislation changes to impaired driving, de-escalation training techniques and the presence of intermediate weapons like pepper spray or TASER.

Local officers are required to complete use-of-force scenario training sessions twice a year that provide tactical communication and de-escalation techniques, as well as physical and safe restraint techniques and intermediate weapons training.

Klien presented commission members the service’s ‘Reasonable Officer Response Training Aid,’ which focuses on customer service and professionalism to avoid the need for any force to be used whenever possible.

Officers also receive mental health awareness training to improve police understanding around mental health issues and how best to respond.

“We’ve seen the effectiveness of de-escalation training, learning to talk to people and controlling that without ever having to use force,” said Sgt. Klein. “Obviously it’s a hot-button topic, de-escalation training, and that’s just the way policing is now.”

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