Lethbridge, Alberta – Of the more than 36,000 calls for service Lethbridge Police officers responded to in 2021, 99.5 per cent were resolved without any use of force.
In the very small percentage of cases where force was required, 209 subjects were not injured at all, 24 sustained minor injuries that did not require treatment and 13 received out-patient treatment for injuries such as canine bites.
LPS officers receive comprehensive training in verbal communication, de-escalation and disengagement techniques, incident assessment and threat identification as well as use of force techniques.
“An officer’s most valuable tool is their voice,” said Acting Staff Sgt. Rick Semenuik, Training Unit. “When we respond to a call, we’re trained to assess the situation and subjects involved, re-assess as the matter evolves and in most cases the use of de-escalation and disengagement techniques to help gain the benefit of time and options enables a resolution that does not involve any use of force or result in any injuries.”
The 2021 use of force data is included in the Subject Behaviour Officer Response Report. A use of force report must be completed when any use of force other than cooperative handcuffing or escort techniques are used, there’s an injury to the officer, subject or bystander, a firearm or less lethal weapon (Conducted Energy Weapon, Arwen, sock gun) is displayed or there’s an accidental discharge of a firearm or less lethal weapon.
The written reports are reviewed through the chain of command to evaluate current training, identify any issues or trends that could be addressed through additional training and provide oversight to ensure the officer’s actions were reasonable and aligned with their training, LPS policies and provincial guidelines.
In 2021, 40 per cent of the cases where force was used involved subjects who were perceived as being agitated or intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, 28 per cent were in a state of crisis, 19 per cent had, or were reported to have, access to weapons and eight per cent were believed to be suffering from mental illness.
The significant number of subjects involved in police calls who were in crisis or suffering from mental health issues, led to the addition of an extra Police and Crisis Team (PACT) in 2021. There are now two PACT pairings of an officer and a mental health therapist to better serve high-risk individuals and those with chronic issues, and all LPS officers are provided ongoing training to help them respond effectively to calls involving individuals suffering from mental health concerns.
LPS is also providing all our police officers with two additional tools to better understand and respond to mental health calls. The HealthIM digital platform, to be launched this spring, will provide officers with a pre-response safety briefing and support their assessment on whether a person should be transported to a designated facility for evaluation. All LPS officers have also completed ‘Brain Story Certification,’ an online resource which provides them with knowledge on brain development and the effects that stress and adverse experiences can have on physical/mental health.
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