July 16th, 2024

LPS report says de-escalation sought before use of force

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on April 6, 2022.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman Sgt. Rick Semenuik presents the 2021 Subject Behavior Officer Response report to the Police Commission during their March monthly meeting last week at City Hall.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Only 0.5 per cent of calls for service involved use of force in 2021, according to an LPS report.
Lethbridge Police Service Sgt. Rick Semenuik presented the 2021 Subject Behaviour Officer Response report to the Police Commission during their monthly meeting last week at City Hall.
“This report is probably I would guess our most reviewed report we have with the service. There are six levels of review on this, one officer submits the report,” said Semenuik.
He said this type of report is required any time officers have to use force, above cooperative handcuffing techniques.
“They need to submit a report if an incident results in injury, as well as any display of a firearm or a CW, which is commonly called Taser, or an accidental discharge of a firearm,” said Semenuik.
The SBOR report shows 99.5 per cent of the calls for service in 2021 were resolved without any use of force.
“Officers are trained with de-escalation verbal communication, and they try to de-escalate a situation before any force is required,” said Semenuik.
He said usually members receive 22 hours of training per year, but due to COVID restrictions, they had to cancel one of their modules and therefore they only received 19 hours of training.
Semenuik said the number of SBOR reports increased because of incidents involving Vehicle Intervention Techniques, which is used by an officer to prevent a subject from fleeing.
“In 2021 34 per cent of the VITs we had, had a corresponding use of force reported along with it. We had 41 VITs last year and 14 of them had SBOR reports,” said Semenuik.
He said that number went down from 2020, which was 46 per cent, and one of the training issues they identified.
“Our members were tending to treat VITs as high-risk situations, where they were automatically pulling out less lethal shotgun, or a Taser, or something along that line. So, we did some training to remind them it’s actually a low-risk event and you don’t necessarily need a weapon every single time. It’s based on situation,” said Semenuik.
Semenuik spoke about the typical use of force situation, where the report highlighted the fact that only five per cent of the people they encounter were perceived to be in a normal state of mind.
“Which means 95 per cent of the people in the use of force situation are going through either intoxicated by the use of drugs, there’s a perceived mental health crisis, there is a perceived mental health issue,” said Semenuik.
He highlighted the fact that it was perceived, as officers are not trained in clinical psychology.
“It is their perception of what’s the subject they’re dealing with, and that perception leads to their use of force decisions,” said Semenuik.
He said that in 2021 they increased their PACT (Police and Crisis Team) positions from one to two PACT positions, and that based on his conversations with officers, they are using them on a regular basis.
Semenuik said sometimes information is inaccurate when responding to an incident. The officers are told that it is a high risk situation, and they show up with weapons drawn and it turns out to be a low risk.
He said because of that, the report is now submitted based on the initial information they received and the officer’s perception of the subject once they actually are dealing with them.
The full report can be found in the Police Commission March 30 meeting agenda at https://www.lethbridge.ca/living-here/Emergency-Services/Documents/Police%20Minutes 2022-3%2030%20OPEN%20Agenda.pdf

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