Police Intervention Requiring Force

In the course of their duties, police officers may face situations that require using force to ensure the safety of the public safety as well as their own. The authority to use force is set in provincial legislation, as are standards related to approved weapons, training and reporting.

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Less than one percent of all calls attended by the OPS require the use of force. In fact, most calls are resolved solely with officer presence and communication. Effective communication and de-escalation continue to be at the foundation of police-public interactions.

Application of Force graphicOfficers are instructed to use only the amount of force necessary to bring an incident under control, make an arrest, or protect themselves or others.  In an event where use of force may be used, the officer selects what they feel to be an appropriate and reasonable response based on the situation, including factors such as the subject’s behaviour, their own perceptions, and tactical considerations.  

Annual use-of-force training for officers is mandated by the Province. It provides officers with the skills to assess plan and act accordingly to resolve situations they encounter. Good communication and de-escalation techniques are at the forefront of every encounter with the public. In 2018, the OPS renewed the license agreement with the province of British Columbia for the BC Crisis Intervention and De-escalation (CID) classroom training course and materials. This program is the foundation of OPS’ communication and de-escalation program.  All new recruits and experienced officer new hires are provided with this 8-hour basic program which consists of classroom and scenario training with live role players. Additionally, as part of annual block training, officers receive both academic and scenario training based on the concepts of incident management and its connection to de-escalating incidents. 

Officers are required to submit a use-of-force report whenever they draw a handgun in the presence of a member of the public, point a firearm at a person, discharge a firearm, when a weapon other than a firearm is used on another person, or where physical force has been used on another person that results in an injury requiring medical attention.  A use-of-force report is also required when a Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW) is used in probe mode, three point contact, stun mode and when the CEW is used as a demonstrated force presence (overt display of the CEW with the intent to achieve compliance).

A single use-of-force report may include more than one application of force.  For example, last year 529 use-of-force reports were submitted (+20%), with 767 applications of force (+13%).  During their assessment of the situation and subsequent response, the attending officer may have to transition to a higher or lower level of force as the situation unfolds, therefore some use of force reports may cover more than one of the criteria requiring a use of force report to be submitted. One use of force report would then cover all use of force options exercised in a single incident. On the other hand, specialized teams may submit a single report on behalf of all members involved.  For example, seven percent (37) of all reports were submitted by the Tactical Unit. Furthermore, a single incident responded to by multiple officers may result in more than one report being submitted.

In 2018, there was an increase in the number of situations where firearms were drawn (+4%) and pointed (+9%). There were 40 reports involving the discharge of firearms, down one from 2017.  There was one incident of a firearm being discharged on a person. This incident was investigated by the Ontario Special Investigations Unit and their findings released to the public on January 21, 2019. The remaining discharges (39/40) involved dispatching animals.

Use of force reports involving Carbine usage decreased by six to 49 in 2018.   Aerosol spray and impact weapons (soft and hard) are used to assist in gaining control of individuals resisting arrest and in situations where the safety of the officer or a member of the public is at risk. In 2018, aerosol weapons were used in 20 instances, an increase of four from 2017. The use of both impact weapons hard and soft decreased in 2018 to three.

Physical techniques used to control a subject that do not involve the use of a weapon, are categorized as an empty hand technique - hard or soft. Soft techniques have a lower probability of causing injuries and can include restraining techniques, joint locks and non-resistant handcuffing. Hard techniques have a higher probability of causing injury and may include empty hand strikes such as a punch or a kick. Empty hand hard was used a total of 19 times, two fewer than in 2017. The use of empty hand soft technique was reported in 25 instances, a decrease of 14 cases from 2017.

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