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Monday, February 25, 2008

Ottawa police taser use drops after 'responsibility pay' introduced

February 25, 2008
CBC News

The use of Tasers, guns and physical force by Ottawa police dropped to their lowest level in years in 2007 — the year after the service introduced a special premium for officers who regularly retake a course on the proper use of force.

Tasers were used only a dozen times by officers last year, said the police service's 2007 use of force annual report, which was to be discussed at the Police Services Board meeting Monday night.

That was the lowest number of uses in five years, even though 34 tactical officers were authorized to used the devices, and 61 front line supervisors became authorized in November 2007. Physical control was used 45 times — an eight-year low. Officers pointed their firearms 212 times, the lowest level since 2002, the report shows. They were fired 51 times, in all cases to destroy animals. Pepper spray was used 54 times, up slightly from the year before, but still one of the lowest levels since 2000.

Chief Vern White credits better training for the decline in the use of force. "I went through use of force training two weeks ago," he said, "and I have to say I was totally impressed with the use of force training itself, the instructors." He added that the instructors encouraged officers to talk to the people they deal with before doing anything else.

Since May 2006, officers have been eligible for a special salary premium called responsibility pay if they take the use of force training force every 11 months.

Const. David Zackrias said he believes the constant retraining has contributed to the drop in the use of force. "The officers receive better training these days," he said. "We have to requalify annually and every time … there's always new scenarious we use in our training."

White said he is naturally happy that officers are using force less often, but he said if the numbers go up he won't necessarily be disappointed. Circumstance can change from year to year, White said. He added that what's important is not how often police use force, but whether they are using it appropriately.

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