Minutes - Standing Policy Committee on Protection and Community Services - March 3, 2008
Minute No. 31 Update on the Winnipeg Police Service Policy for use of Electronic Control Devices
STANDING COMMITTEE DECISION:
The Standing Policy Committee on Protection and Community Services concurred in the
recommendation of the Winnipeg Public Service and received the report dated February 15,
2008, as information.
Minutes - Standing Policy Committee on Protection and Community Services - March 3, 2008
DECISION MAKING HISTORY:
Moved by Councillor Gerbasi,
That the recommendation of the Winnipeg Public Service be concurred in.
STANDING COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION:
On December 3, 2007, the Standing Policy Committee on Protection and Community Services
recommended that the Winnipeg Police Service report back within ninety (90) days on the
1. The current policy on Use of Force as it pertains to the utilization of conducted-energy
weapons (Tasers) by the Winnipeg Police Service;
2. The frequency of use of conducted-energy weapons in the City of Winnipeg, the number
of conducted-energy weapons deployed to members of the Winnipeg Police Service, the
number of complaints received when the weapons were utilized and a comparison between the City of Winnipeg and other jurisdictions in Canada.
RE: Update on the Winnipeg Police Service
policy for use of electronic control devices
FOR SUBMISSION TO: Standing Policy Committee on Protection
and Community Services
ORIGINAL REPORT SIGNED BY: Keith McCaskill, Chief of Police
REPORT DATE: February 15, 2008
RECOMMENDATION: That this report be received as information.
• The electronic control device is a non-lethal control option that can be used in certain situations such as the arrest of actively aggressive persons, as well as other situations; for example, intervention with suicidal individuals. The device, however, is not intended to be a substitute for deadly force, nor is it considered a “magic bullet” for life-threatening situations.
• An in-depth research study was commissioned in 2005 by the Canadian Association of
Chiefs of Police and Canadian Police Research Centre. The study concluded that there
was no conclusive evidence to suggest the Taser is more dangerous or injury-producing than other intermediate uses of force when used properly on individuals and when those subjects do not have serious, underlying medical conditions.
• The Service has a comprehensive policy on the use of electronic control devices. This policy stipulates the circumstances in which the device may be used, on the principle that use of force must be reasonable and must not be punitive. Furthermore, the policy includes a protocol for immediate medical attention when warranted based on observance of physical or behavioural cues.
• When considering all variables, the frequency of deployment for electronic control devices in Winnipeg does not appear to be out of line with the experiences of other Canadian jurisdictions.
Implications of the Recommendation(s):
( ) For the organization overall and/or for other departments
( ) For the community and/or organizations external to the City
( ) Involves a multi-year contract
( ) Yes
( ) Eliminates or reduces regulatory impact
( ) Proposes regulatory impact
( ) Yes
Human Resources Implications
( ) Yes
(X) Within approved current and/or capital budget
( ) Current and/or capital budget adjustment required
Comment(s): This report is for information only. There are no financial implications related to the administrative recommendation.
REASON FOR THE REPORT:
At its meeting on December 3, 2007, the Standing Policy Committee on Protection and
Community Services recommended that the Winnipeg Police Service report back within 90
days, on the following:
1. The current policy on Use of Force as it pertains to the utilization of conducted-energy weapons (Tasers) by the Winnipeg Police Service;
2. The frequency of use of conducted-energy weapons in the City of Winnipeg, the number of conducted-energy weapons deployed to members of the Winnipeg Police Service, the number of complaints received when the weapons were utilized and a comparison between the City of Winnipeg and other jurisdictions in Canada.
In 1997, the WPS began initial research and evaluation of electronic control devices, also known as stun guns or conducted energy weapons, and commonly referred to with the brand name Taser. An early model, the Tasertron Police Taser by Tasertron was found to be ineffective and not appropriate for the needs of the WPS. By 2000, further developments in non-lethal technology led to the development the Advanced Taser M26 manufactured by Taser International.
In October 2002, WPS canvassed other Canadian police agencies to collect comparative
information on the issuance of electronic control devices. As of November 2003, there were 3,086 North American law enforcement agencies specifically using the Taser model and of these, 62 were Canadian law enforcement agencies.
In November 2003, the WPS Executive approved, in principle, a recommendation to adopt the electronic control device as a non-lethal control option in the WPS Use of Force continuum.
At its meeting on April 5, 2004, the Standing Policy Committee on Protection and Community Services received, as information, a report titled, “Enhancement to the Winnipeg Police Service Use of Force Policy.”
The report had outlined the history of the Winnipeg Police Service’s (WPS) research into and development of an internal policy enhancement to adopt electronic control devices (also known as stun guns or conducted energy weapons) within the WPS Use of Force policy.
The decision to adopt the electronic control device considered the following factors:
• The advanced model conducted-energy weapon offered superior tactical and safety
benefits over the Service’s pre-existing intermediate weapons (baton and pepper spray).
• It offered a non-lethal control option that could be used in certain situations such as the arrest of actively aggressive persons, as well as other situations; for example, intervention with suicidal individuals.
• The device however, was not intended to be a substitute for deadly force, nor was it considered a “magic bullet” for life-threatening situations.
• It was also seen to be of value against suicidal individuals who displayed the intent to harm themselves but did not pose an immediate threat to others.
• The weapon could be used in three ways:
1. Coercion: simply displaying the weapon or aiming its red laser light at a suspect as a means to obtain compliance
2. Probe Deployment: two probes discharged up to 25 feet away from the subject,
resulting in total body incapacitation
3. Drive stun: probe cartridge is removed and device is placed upon a specific pressure point, using pain compliance instead of total body incapacitation.
• Agencies that adopted electronic control devices had documented significant decreases in both police officer and subject injuries.
• The Taser includes a feature to capture the time and date of each time of firing, so that data can later be downloaded and stored in a computer to ensure proper tracking of and accountability for usage. In addition, confetti-like tags are ejected from the fired cartridge, and each tag contains a serial number matching it to the cartridge from which it was fired. This allows investigators to determine which officers’ device was fired at a scene where more than one device may have been deployed. The tracking technology is valuable in protecting members from unfounded allegations of misuse or excessive force, and can reduce the potential of inappropriate or indiscriminate deployments.
As anticipated at the time of the March 2004 report submitted by WPS, the adoption of electronic control devices was recommended in the January 2005 report of the provincial Inquest into the November 2001 death of Donald Miles, who was fatally shot while making a knife attack against a police officer.
Following the development of a comprehensive policy on use of electronic control devices, the WPS began to acquire the Taser X26 model in late 2004 as financial resources permitted. The units were not issued to field operations until September 2006, when training and certification was completed for all operational members.
WPS Operational Policy / Training / Accountability Measures
The Taser electronic control device is an intermediate weapon in the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) use-of-force continuum. It is not a substitute for lethal force, therefore we cannot articulate an absolute relationship between Taser deployment and the number of times an officer may draw or discharge his/her firearm.
WPS uses the Taser X26 model, and has 150 of the devices in operations. The X26 model is saller and lighter than the earlier-introduced model M26. Both models emit a 50,000 volt charge, however the X26 has a more advanced design than the M26, incorporating efficiencies such as longer battery life. Many law enforcement agencies use either the X26 or M26 model, or a combination of both models, depending on when they began acquiring the devices. (As further background, the M26 was the current model on the market at the time when our use-offorce policy was being expanded to include electronic control devices; the X26 was introduced
prior to our acquisition.)
Typically, and more recently, controversy about the use of Tasers has focused on misuse, or a lack of accountability for use of the device. To ensure accountability and, in turn, to maintain public confidence, the Winnipeg Police Service has a comprehensive policy on Taser use, and trains to that policy. This policy, reported to the Standing Policy Committee on Protection and Community Services in April 2004, is part of our overall directives on use-of-force. These directives dictate the levels of force which can reasonably be used to neutralize armed or otherwise threatening individuals from harming themselves, other citizens, or police.
The Service’s policy stipulates the circumstances in which the device may be used, on the principle that use of force must be reasonable and must not be punitive. The device would be used in situations, for example, where the subject is far enough away that the weapon he or she was brandishing did not pose imminent danger. In such a case, however, the use of the firearm may still be the only viable option to stop the threat of harm or further harm to a victim if the situation changes quickly and becomes a matter of imminent danger.
Other stipulations on use of the device include the collecting of evidence (e.g., photographs in cases of drive stun use, or in cases of where probe deployment causes more than the typical bee sting-like mark), and emergency medical protocols as deemed necessary after the use of the device, which can be particularly important in the case of a subject who is under the influence of cocaine.
Excerpts from the WPS operational policy topic, Electronic Control Devices (Tasers) follow:
Only the level of force that reasonably appears necessary to control, or otherwise subdue, violent or potentially violent individuals shall be used. Electronic Control Devices (i.e. Taser) may be used by authorized and trained police members in accordance with the use of force policy and additional established guidelines.
Tasers are prohibited from being used:
1) In a punitive manner.
2) On a handcuffed/secured suspect, absent of overtly assaultive behaviour that cannot be reasonably dealt with in any other less intrusive fashion.
3) On a suspect who does not demonstrate their obvious intention to use violence or force against the police member, another person or themselves.
4) On a suspect who does not demonstrate their obvious intention of fleeing to resist/avoid detention or arrest.
5) In any environment where a police member knows a potentially flammable, volatile, or explosive material is present.
6) In any environment where the suspect’s fall could reasonably result in death, or grievous bodily harm.
Criteria for Taser Use
1) Unless exigent circumstances exist, not use a Taser against:
a) Visibly pregnant women.
b) Elderly persons.
c) Young children.
d) Visibly frail persons.
e) Suspects in physical control of a vehicle in motion, including cars, trucks, motorcycles, ATVs, bicycles or scooters.
2) If necessary, use a Taser to protect against aggressive animals.
The policy also includes operational/tactical direction on such topics as:
• Submitting a request for a Taser unit
• Training and inspection, training and maintenance
• Procedures on preparation for deployment, deployment, and after deployment
• Non use-of-force discharge
.. Record keeping
All police members have been trained on the use of the device, and will re-certify on the device as part of their mandatory, annual use-of-force training and certification. Officers are trained to aim probe deployment at the body’s centre mass; this heightens the accuracy of use and lowers the possibility of the probes contacting a subject’s eyes, face, groin, or other vulnerable/high risk areas. The Police Service is not, however, in a position to give a detailed description of our
training as that would divulge tactical matters the Service doesn’t make public, to maintain operational advantage.
Use of the Taser is tracked by the device itself, and this information is downloaded for analysis and evidentiary purposes. The use of the Taser is also documented in reports submitted by officers; this “use of force report” is mandatory in all instances where officers use force in the effecting of arrests/other similar duties. Each such report is reviewed by the members’ supervisor, divisional commander and, ultimately, subject experts in our Officer Safety Section.
Any reported complaint that indicates a deviation from our policy is investigated. To date, no allegations to the Winnipeg Police Service Professional Standards Unit (PSU) have been proven regarding Taser misuse. At the time of writing, PSU had one investigation regarding an allegation of improper Taser use.
The other venue for registering complaints against police is the Province’s Law Enforcement Review Agency (LERA). In 2006 there were no complaints made about WPS Taser use. In 2007, there were nine complaints.
For context, LERA’s 2006 annual report states there were 244 new complaints in 2006
regarding Manitoba police agencies (excluding the RCMP, which is governed under federal statute). Of these, 207 were against WPS members, a decrease from 223 in 2005. The proportion of total complaints in 2006 is consistent with the percentage of the population policed by WPS.
WPS deployed Tasers 173 times in 2007. The class of use is broken down as follows:
• Used as a coercion device (not actually fired; simply displayed or aimed) 70
.. Probe deployment 55
• Used in drive stun mode _48
For context, this information is compared with the following Canadian jurisdictions:
Police Agency 1,2
Number of Deployments
Winnipeg 700,000 1,250 100
2006 (Sept.-Dec.) - 71 uses
2007 - 173 uses
Edmonton 1,000,000 1,300 235
2004 - 364 uses
2005 - 385 uses
2006 - 457 uses
2007 (Jan.-Sept.) - 250 uses
RCMP “D” Division 400,000 1,025 202
2005 (Mar.-Dec.) - 71 uses
2006 - 133 uses
2007 - 117 uses
Peel Regional 1,000,000 1,500 47
2005 (July-Dec.) - 44 uses
2006 - 46 uses
1. External agencies’ information, as obtained early in January 2008.
2. Data on complaints received by the agencies was not available.
3. An additional 50 Tasers were placed in service by WPS in 2008.
There are no reports of death or significant injuries resulting from Taser deployment by WPS officers. Minor injuries are fairly routine from probe deployment and appear similar to a bee sting; in drive stun, marks may result, resembling mild burns. However, it is noteworthy that, other than the possibility of such marks, there are no lingering effects after the device is used. This is unlike pepper spray, which causes pain for a period of about an hour after use and necessitates decontamination of the subject, or use of the baton, which can result in bruising to
body tissues or fractures to bones.
Officers are trained to recognize behavioural or physical cues that may indicate a person is suffering a medical emergency after the use of the Taser. WPS policy includes a protocol for immediate medical attention in such cases. As mentioned previously, this is most important in cases where the subject is intoxicated through use of cocaine, and may be suffering from what is known as excited delirium. This is a very dangerous medical condition which can result in heart attack, and many of the Taser-related deaths that have occurred throughout North America have been attributed to excited delirium.
The medical protocol dictated in our policy goes to the extent of detailing how probes are to be removed if they pierce a subject’s clothing and attach to the skin. For example, if embedded in low-risk areas (i.e. torso), the probes may be removed at the scene by paramedics. If the probes should strike a high-risk area (i.e. face, groin) they must be removed in hospital.
Recommendations of Donald Miles Inquest Report
It is also noteworthy that, in the January 2005 report of Provincial Judge Wesley H. Swail, with respect to the provincial Inquest into the November 2001 fatal police shooting death of Donald Miles, the following recommendations were made:
“On the basis of the evidence heard at this Inquest from experts on police
use of force, it is recommended:
1. That the Winnipeg Police Service deploy taser guns in a manner assuring that all general patrol police cruisers are equipped with them.
2. That prior to such deployment, the Winnipeg Police Service train all members in the use of taser guns as an intermediate force weapon to be used appropriately only in accordance with the Winnipeg Police Service Use of Force Continuum.
3. That the Winnipeg Police Service carefully monitor the use by its members of taser guns, after deployment of them as recommended above, to determine that they can be used safely by members of the Winnipeg Police Service; and to determine whether or not the taser’s present status on the Winnipeg Police Service Use of Force Continuum as an “intermediate” weapon should be changed.”
Conclusion: Ongoing Monitoring and Review of Internal and External Environment
The WPS Officer Safety Section continues to monitor reports and studies on the safety of electronic control devices. To date, and as acknowledged by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and Canadian Police Research Centre in a 2005 study, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest the Taser is more dangerous or injury-producing than other uses of force (pepper spray, baton) when used properly on individuals and when those subjects do not have serious, underlying medical conditions including cocaine-induced excited delirium. To maintain its due diligence in the matter, CACP recently announced the commissioning of further work to
update the 2005 report.
In January, 2008, the WPS Use of Force Coordinator reviewed the Interim Report on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Use of Conducted Energy Weapons issued December 2007 by the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP (CPC). The report’s recommendations deal with overall administration of Tasers, Taser applications, standards for re-certification, a designated Taser coordinator and a statistical-based database management system.
Subject experts and leadership of the WPS have reviewed and considered all recommendations that would relate to our agency, and believe our policy reflects best practices for public and officer safety.
While our electronic control devices have only been operational in Winnipeg since September 2006, we invested considerable personnel time and detail into our policy, training of our membership, and overall management of these devices. This has, in our view, provided a solid foundation for our members’ safe use of the device.
WPS submits that, in the aforementioned 173 WPS deployments, use of the device may well have prevented serious injury or death that could have resulted from other issue equipment (pepper spray, baton, and perhaps in certain cases, firearm).
In summary, recognized research and our practical experience have shown the Taser to be a safe, effective addition to our officers’ equipment and use-of-force options, and that there is strict accountability to ensure its appropriate use in maintaining public safety.
IN PREPARING THIS REPORT THERE WAS:
Internal Consultation With and Concurrence By:
External Consultation With:
Manitoba Justice, Law Enforcement Review Agency
Edmonton Police Service
RCMP “D” Division (Manitoba)
Peel Regional Police Service
THIS REPORT SUBMITTED BY:
Department Winnipeg Police Service
Division Executive Offices
Prepared by: S. West, Manager, Strategic Issues
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Monday, March 03, 2008
Minutes - Standing Policy Committee on Protection and Community Services - March 3, 2008