CALGARY – A wide-ranging report on the Calgary Police Service’s use of force makes 65 recommendations that touch on training, recruitment, equipment and oversight.
An independent review by a retired Court of Queen’s Bench chief justice says front-line officers should have annual training on how to de-escalate intense situations. It also suggests that psychological tests used in recruitment should be evaluated.
Neil Wittmann recommends all front-line patrol officers carry conducted energy weapons, pepper spray and batons in addition to handguns. He says the use of body-worn cameras should be monitored and that acts of heroism or positive public interactions caught on body cams should be publicized. Wittmann flags delays in reviewing situations where police used force and urges more resources for the provincial police oversight body as well as for the medical examiner.
The review says police should work with Alberta Health Services to ensure officers know if they’ll be responding to a call involving someone with mental-health problems.
Wittmann says more often than not, police are the first to respond to a person in a mental-health crisis.
“I believe it is incumbent on the police to acknowledge that this is now a critical component of their job,” he writes in the review.
From 2012 to 2017, there were 21 shootings by Calgary police officers that killed eight people and injured 10.
Wittmann was tapped about a year ago to review the police service’s use of force. In that time, he said, he personally interviewed 190 people, including officers, families of those affected, mental-health workers and academics.