Police Intervention Requiring Force

A new recruit to the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) will receive more than 1,600 hours of training, prior to starting their first shift with the Service. This includes approximately 540 hours on Use of Force training, specifically focusing on communication skills and de-escalation techniques. A training analyst within the Service monitors training records to determine that all officers are up-to-date, not just the new recruits, on the most current forms of de-escalation, communication and empty hand methods, which is mandated by the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General. 

Regulation 926 of the Police Services Act, “Equipment and Use of Force,” sets out the requirements in relation to Use of Force, including use of approved weapons, training, reporting and use/ technical specifications for approved Use of Force options.

Empty hand methods include distraction techniques, or joint-lock manipulation aimed at subduing the person to control behaviour that is actively resistant and assaultive and to avoid escalation. These methods can help to protect not only the person being arrested with a lower risk of injury, but the officer and the general public as well.

It is the sincere goal of every sworn officer to resolve any call for service by employing effective communication skills and de-escalation versus other Use of Force options. But it is in the course of their duties that police officers may face situations that require using force to ensure the safety of the public as well as their own.

Annual Use of Force training for officers has been mandated by the Province as a required component of officer training. It provides officers with training and skills to assess, plan and act accordingly to resolve situations they encounter. It includes best-practices as well as bias training and community awareness. Good communication and de-escalation techniques are at the forefront of every encounter with the public.

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. The intention of these reports is to help guide the OPS towards identifying gaps in training and help reinforce a communication/de-escalation first mode of policing. De-escalation techniques, including empty hand methods are the go-to operationally as they reduce the chance of injuries, while still ensuring the safety of both the officer and the public. Each option for Use of Force is applied incrementally as warranted, with the goal of resolving each incident with communication and de-escalation first and foremost. 

A Use of Force report is also required when a Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW) is used in cartridge/probe mode, three-point contact, drive/push stun mode and when the CEW is used as a demonstrated force presence (overt display of the CEW with the intent to achieve compliance). In 2019, OPS officers used demonstrated force presence (showing the CEW but not using it) more than any other option for CEW usage.

New regulations relating to Use of Force were handed down by the province and came into effect in January 2020. Part of those regulations included the requirement of all police services to collect participant observation information regarding the race of individuals, but not their names, impacted by police Use of Force. This requirement and its data will be reviewed more comprehensively in next year’s Annual Report, but will be monitored by Ontario’s Anti-Racism Data Standards to ensure consistent and effective practices are in place for reliable information relating to evidence-based decision making and public accountability. The goal is to use the data to help eliminate systemic racism and promote racial equality. 

In 2019, 609 Use of Force reports were submitted, representing a 15 percent increase from 2018. This increase can be attributed to a number of different applications. For example, a single Use of Force report may include more than one application of force; a responding officer may have to escalate or de-escalate their Use of Force option as the incident unfolds. One report would cover all Use of Force options exercised in a single incident. Specialized teams may submit a single report on behalf of all the members involved in an incident. For example, in 2019, 58 of the 609 reports (10%) were submitted by the Tactical Unit. Furthermore, a single incident that is responded to by multiple officers may result in more than one Use of Force report submitted. Putting this into perspective, the 609 Use of Force reports accounted for a total of 914 Use of Force applications, a 19 percent increase from 2018. 

In 2019, there was an increase in the number of situations where firearms were drawn (+28%) and pointed (+2%). There were 48 reports involving the discharge of firearms in 2019; nearly all (96%) incidents involved dispatching animals. There was one incident of a firearm being discharged on a person in 2019, which involved two officers. This incident was investigated by the Ontario Special Investigations Unit and their findings released to the public on February 13, 2020.

Use of Force reports involving carbines increased from 49 in 2018, to 67 in 2019. The OPS currently has 377 trained carbine operators, with 152 added to that roster in 2019. These operators are deployed mainly with our Tactical and Airport units. It is used primarily as a containment tool, similarly to demonstrated force presence of CEW usage. In 2019, carbines were used predominantly in response to calls for service involving the humane destruction of an injured animal.   

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. The use of aerosol weapons declined by 60 percent or 12 applications last year. The use of impact weapons (hard) remained the same as in 2018 and the use of impact weapons (soft) increased by one instance in 2019.

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 38 times, 19 more than in 2018. The use of empty hand soft technique was reported in 57 instances, an increase of 32 cases from 2018. These techniques were applied incrementally as each incident unfolded, starting with communication and de-escalation tools first and foremost.