Taser display leads 2017 Cornwall police use of force

Cornwall Police Chief Designate Danny Aikman and Chief Dan Parkinson review a 2017 use of force report during a police board meeting, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018. The number of times a taser was displayed in 2017 more than doubled compared to 2016 but in only five cases was the weapon fired. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – Police Chief Dan Parkinson says his officers are showing a “high degree of discretion” even though statistics, on their face, might suggest a higher use of force by front line officers.

The Cornwall Police Services Board reviewed the provincially-mandated 2017 use of force report during its meeting at city hall Wednesday morning.

Provincial law dictates that a use of force report must be filed any time an officer displays a weapon (gun, taser, baton, pepper spray). The weapon doesn’t actually have to be fired or used.

There were 39 times last year where use of force was used. That’s up from a total of 21 in 2016. There were 13 cases that involved drawing or displaying a firearm – up from nine in 2016. That doesn’t include four cases where an animal had to be destroyed.

While the tasers were unholstered by officers 26 times, only in five instances were the conducted energy weapons (CEWs) fired.

Those five people required medical treatment to remove the taser probes from their bodies.

“The vast majority of those instances involving conducted energy weapons are just displaying them, not actually deploying. That, to me, shows there’s a very broad restriction in the officer’s application of that type of use of force. Showing it and deploying it are two different things,” Chief Dan Parkinson told Cornwall Newswatch.

“Last year (2017), we saw, what I would view, as a reasonable amount of discretion exercised by our police officers. Many of these people that we interact with don’t want to do what we ask them to do,” the chief said.

The police force made 1,734 arrests last year and use of force was used in 24 of those arrests – up from 21 in 2016.

Police board chairman Andre Rivette told the board he would rather see a taser used some other form of lethal force. “(It’s) very effective,” Parkinson answered.

Pursuits

Cornwall police were involved in 11 pursuits last year. Eight of those were called off in the interest of public safety.

“None of which included collisions (or) anyone getting hurt. Our officers exercised a high degree of discretion in terminating the pursuit. I think it’s a pretty good result,” Chief Parkinson told CNW.

The number of pursuits is down from 2016 when there were 16 within the city limits.

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