Use of force by Saskatoon police up by eight per cent compared to 2015

From CTV News Saskatoon, May 23, 2017

Saskatoon police officers have had to use more force on the job than in the past.

An increase of illicit drugs, including crystal meth, is partly to blame as officers are responding to more violent people, according to a report going to the Board of Police Commissioners.

“The trend suggests that more officers are having to deal with confrontational/physically assaultive subjects upon initial contact than in past years, which may be partially explained by increasing levels of substance abuse and intoxication,” Insp. Patrick Nogier wrote in the report.

The report shows there's been an eight per cent increase in the number of incidents that required use of force last year compared to 2015. Use of force is identified through 24 categories including pointing a gun, the use of police dogs and physical restraints.

When officers had initial contact with a suspect in 2014, use of force was used 96 times, according to the report. That number went down to 92 in 2015, but went up to 176 last year.

A similar pattern was reported during arrests: there were 75 incidents of use of force during an arrest in 2014, there were 72 in 2015 and 118 in 2016.

Two guns were fired by police in 2014, compared to three in 2015 and eight in 2016. When it comes to takedowns or throws, there were 35 incidents in 2014, 25 in 2015 and 40 last year.

Reporting use of force also includes non-physical measures, like when the tactical support unit is called to a scene. The report said the reporting of the TSU as use of force did contribute to the increase, and does not result in a physical application of force.

“Mere presence alone is at times enough to solve the problem,” Nogier wrote.

Police pursuits are also included in the number of use of force incidents, after the province mandated it be included in 2013. Pursuits accounted for about 45 per cent of all use of force incidents in 2016 and continue to increase each year, according to the report. There were 149 vehicle pursuits last year compared to 54 in 2015.

An officer is required to fill out a form anytime use of force is applied and the Saskatoon Police Service provides its use of force statistics to the police board each year.

The report is expected to be discussed at a Board of Police Commissioners meeting on Wednesday afternoon.