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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Remarks for Commissioner Elliott - Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Check against delivery

Thank you Mr. Chairman. I am happy to be here. I welcome the opportunity to appear again before this committee to talk about the work of the RCMP, and to expand on the information I provided during my last appearance.

The RCMP's use of force, including the use of conducted energy weapons, or CEWs, is an important and complex matter that understandably is of concern to members of this committee and to the public we are all sworn to serve.

We recognize that in a democratic society, public scrutiny is a fundamental aspect of maintaining the accountability of public institutions. This certainly applies to the police, who should be, and are in fact, held to a very high standard given our extraordinary powers and obligations to enforce the law and protect the peace. So the RCMP fully expects--and indeed welcomes--scrutiny by parliamentarians and others.

The RCMP's ability to provide effective policing services depends on the support of the communities we serve. We believe the more the public knows about the work that we do and the challenges that we face, the more likely they are to support us, despite our shortcomings and despite the fact that, try as we might to avoid doing so, sometimes we make mistakes.

The RCMP, and I as commissioner, are dedicated to working as hard as we can, to ensure that we provide quality police services to Canadians, in ways that respect and reflect the values that Canadians and the force hold dear. The RCMP's values include honesty, integrity, professionalism, compassion, respect and accountability. An important aspect of our accountability is our interaction with parliament and parliamentarians. So, as I said, I am happy to be here.

The RCMP is also committed to continuous learning and continuous improvement, including in relation to our policies.

As I outlined during my previous appearance, the RCMP has taken significant steps to improve our policies relating to CEWs, as well as associated training and reporting requirements. An important factor in this work has been this committee's recommendations in its June 2008 report. Last time I was before you, I talked about improvements we have made to our Incident Management Intervention Model, policy amendments that further restrict the use of CEWs, enhanced reporting, and more frequent re-certification requirements for those trained to use CEWs.

I told you that the RCMP's revised policy restricts the use of CEWs and specifically warns of the hazards of multiple deployment or continuous cycling of the CEW.

As a learning organization, the RCMP monitors its policies, procedures and training on an ongoing basis to identify areas for improvement.

Since its inception in 2001, the RCMP's CEW policy has undergone a number of updates and amendments. In June 2008, we directed that the CEW must only be used where there is a threat to public or officer safety. This and other restrictions and enhancements to the policy were subsequently incorporated in the RCMP's current CEW policy which was published on February 3, 2009.

I would like to take a few minutes to highlight a few of the significant changes in the new policy that restrict the use of the CEW beyond what was provided for in the previous version. These changes and the policy itself do not stand alone but rather are linked with and relate to our training, including our certification and re-certification of RCMP officers authorized to use a CEW.

Let me start with section 3.1.1. which provides that "the CEW must only be used in accordance with CEW training, the principles of the Incident Management Intervention Model (IMIM) and in response to a threat to public or officer safety as determined by a member's assessment of the totality of the circumstances being encountered."

This is a fundamental provision that underpins all elements of the policy. It directs that the CEW may only be used where a member has assessed all the factors of the situation and has concluded that there is a threat to public or officer safety.

This section goes further to say that "a member's actions must be reasonable and the force used must be necessary in the circumstances." The section goes on to set out specific reporting requirements when a CEW is deployed.

Language was added to enhance accountability, both for the officer deploying the CEW and for their supervisor. It places responsibility on members to properly report and articulate their actions following CEW deployments. It also makes supervisors accountable for reviewing each deployment and ensuring compliance with policy.

Section 3.1.2 of the new policy adds to this, directing that "all members must recognize that any use of force entails risk."

This is followed by section 3.1.3 which clearly warns that "multiple deployment or continuous cycling of the CEW may be hazardous to a subject." With any prolonged struggle, the potential for injury increases. The objective is to reduce the potential of injury by reducing the exposure to the CEW either through multiple deployments or continuous cycling.

This provision is fortified by the addition of section 3.1.5 which directs members to take control of a suspect as soon as possible during a CEW deployment and clearly indicates that "the CEW is not intended as a restraint device".

Finally, section 3.1.4 cautions that, "acutely agitated or delirious persons may be at a high risk of death. If an individual is in an acutely agitated or delirious state, and whenever possible when responding to reports of violent individuals, request the assistance of emergency medical services. If possible bring medical assistance to the scene."

This section was changed due to lack of consensus within the medical community regarding the term "excited delirium" with the revised wording, the policy is now more encompassing and also eliminates any perception that members are being asked to make a medical diagnosis.

In considering all of this, it is important to note that only appropriately trained RCMP members are authorized to use the CEW, and RCMP policy has been changed to require yearly mandatory re-certification of these officers. Previously the requirement was re-certification every three years.

The RCMP's training standard for CEWs is comprehensive, includes theoretical and practical components and makes use of scenario-based training. It is important to note that before being trained to use a CEW, all RCMP members are taught the Incident Management Intervention Model (or IMIM), which guides them in their decision making process. The IMIM helps police officers choose appropriate intervention options.

We have also developed a new Subject Behaviour Officer Response (SBOR) reporting tool for reporting use of force incidents which is currently being piloted.

SBOR will be used to report on all use-of-force incidents, not just those involving the CEW. This new reporting process will help members record relevant details following incidents and provide useful data for future analysis. It will also aid the articulation of the circumstances that led officers to decide to resort to the use of force.

I would like to stress again, that when properly used in appropriate situations by officers who are well trained, the RCMP believes that the CEW contributes overall to the safety and security of the public and police. It has been used in situations where, in its absence, police officers may have had to resort to greater force.

The RCMP strives to be a learning organization and to improve our services to Canadians on an ongoing basis. In fact, the story of today's RCMP includes a sincere commitment to change, renewal and growth. While fully recognizing that there is more to do, we are proud that our comprehensive transformation initiative is progressing well B as confirmed by two reports to date by the reform implementation council, an independent panel appointed to advise and report on renewal in the RCMP.

Perhaps on another occasion you will invite me to come back before the committee to speak further about our transformation initiative. Today, I know you are interested in learning more about our CEW policy, so I will end here.

My colleague Deputy Commissioner Madill and I would be happy to respond to any questions.

Thank you.

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