The RPS reported 169 use-of-force incidents in 2017. That’s fewer than the year before, but 10-per-cent higher than the five-year average.
Confronted by a suspect who allegedly was pointing a gun at them late Monday night, two Regina police officers safely disarmed him after a brief struggle.
While the situation was resolved quickly (the firearm was an airsoft gun), it was an example of some of the escalated situations officers face in Regina today.
Firearms offences, stolen vehicles, gangs and drugs are real challenges, Chief Evan Bray told reporters following the Board of Police Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning.
“We obviously strive to not have to use force,” he said. “That is the goal every time our officers set foot on a call for service or have an interaction with a person in the public.”
According to a report presented to the board on Tuesday, the RPS reported 169 use-of-force incidents last year. That’s slightly fewer than the year before, but 10-per-cent higher than the five-year average.
“We had a SWAT call last year where we ultimately used six different uses of force to try and bring resolution to that situation and take into custody the person that was in that case shooting at police officers,” Bray said. “Sometimes it takes more than one use of force in an incident before we can resolve it.”
He noted police make nearly 9,000 arrests a year. Last year, police applied “multiple force options” for an overall tally of 304 forceful acts.
“That’s a pretty low percentage,” he said. “Take that number and know that it’s reviewed, it’s reported on. Any complaints that arise from it are reviewed and overseen by an independent complaints commission. To me, that’s all part of the success story.”
Use of force directly relates to an individual’s compliance with police, Bray said.
Police, for example, might order a robbery suspect to show his hands.
“Whether they stop and show us their hands, whether they run towards us, whether they pull something out of their pocket or whether they flee from us really dictates what our officers are going to do,” Bray said.
He added a lot of people that police deal with are intoxicated, struggling with drug addiction or in some cases have mental health issues and anxiety levels are high.
According to the statistics, police dogs injured 23 suspects they took down last year.
“Most times it’s injuries to a leg that requires stitches or an arm — that’s typically how the dog will apprehend the suspect,” Bray said.
Those injured by a police dog receive immediate medical attention prior to going to the detention unit. All injuries are photographed and included in the reports reviewed by the Use of Force Board, Bray said.
He considers the number of dog bites low considering the canine unit responds to thousands of calls.
“Our canine officers made 257 arrests last year and they attended 3,800 calls for service,” Bray said.
Takedowns with injury increased, with reports rising from 36 to 52 cases of “soft physical control.” Those incidents can include an officer hanging on to a person’s arm and bringing them to the ground to be handcuffed.
“Hard physical control” — such as punches and known as strikes — fell from 51 to 44 cases. Half of the strikes resulted in injury.
Regina’s SWAT team was deployed 31 times last year. A decade ago it was called out five times, Bray said.
“The type of crime we’re investigating is changing,” he said. “Whether it’s escalating our response or simply us responding to an escalation in gun crime, it’s definitely up.”
The SWAT team doesn’t respond to every gun call. There are firearm offences almost nightly and sometimes multiple offences a night that patrol officers handle, Bray said.
When asked if Reginans should be concerned about their safety, Bray responded: “When it comes to crimes against the person, there’s not a lot of random crime that is happening.”
Often there’s a relationship between the two parties when an assault or serious violent offence occurs and crimes are often connected to drugs or gangs.
Mayor Michael Fougere, chair of the board of police commissioners, believes the RPS is using appropriate restraint.
“The kind of crime we’re seeing now is different than it was five years ago. We’re seeing more cars being stolen, more guns being used, less knives being used, more drugs being used, so it’s complicated process,” he said.