file photo.

Increased Taser Use Pushes Up ‘Use of Force’ Numbers

“Use of force” and “pointing firearm” numbers were up for the Chatham-Kent Police last year, but according officials it isn’t due to an increase in crime, but rather the use of Charged Energy Weapons (CEW).

The CK police released its annual report in April comparing 2016 numbers to 2017. Use of force reports were up 60 in 2016 to 75 last year, while “firearm drawn” was up 27 to 44 and use of tasers went from six to 11.

At first glance, a lot of the increases may seem alarming, but Staff Sergeant Mike Domony said it has more to do with the use of CEW’s and how those situations are handled.

“Any time two or more officers are present and one uses a CEW on a subject who has a weapon, we usually have another officer, or two as we advocate for three officers in these cases, who have a more deadly option available ‘just in case,'” Domony said.

“The CEW works very well, and we’ve had great success with it, but is dependent on several factors for the application and that is why we advocate for multiple officers with back-up to ensure our own safety as well as subject and public safety.”

According to Domony if one CEW incident results in two other officers drawing their weapon, each officer has to file a use of force report along with a “firearm drawn” report.

Domony said there were five incidents in 2017 which accounted for 17 separate reports. In one instance police responded to a call of someone with a weapon, which turned out to be an air-soft gun, but looks identical to a real gun. The sergeant said four “firearm drawn” reports had to be filed along with additional “use of force” reports.

“This is in contrast to 2016 with only four multiple use calls accounting for eight use of force reports,” Domony said.

Ultimately, the sergeant said the numbers are up due to more CEW’s being in the hands of qualified users.

“Through 2016 we trained an additional 8 officers and in 2017 we further trained an additional six officers and plan to keep this type of pace up to have the entire service of front-line officers trained over several years,” Domony said. “Placing these ‘less lethal’ options in the hands of our officers gives them another option for these cases.”

Pointing a firearm, possible use of a firearm, strike with a baton, pepper spray and hands-on strike numbers should all decrease as the implementation of CEW’s increases according to Domony.

“This replacement is only for the one officer because, as mentioned earlier, we want to ensure our safety too and that is by having other options available and ready to use as needed,” Domony said.

Domony added additional officers with more lethal weapons ready is needed because CEW’s are not guaranteed to work. He said “fails” can happen if two of the probes miss, the subject is wearing heavy baggy clothing and probes don’t connect or a wire can break.

“If it doesn’t work an officer’s life, or a member of the public’s, or even the subject’s life will be in danger in these circumstances and we have a firearm(s) back-up in these cases ‘just in case,’” Domony said. “Thankfully we have not had to shoot anyone and our officers have exercised excellent judgement and tactics in their selection of force used and the application of the force used.”