Independent review to examine Calgary Police Service’s use of lethal force
The Calgary Police Service (CPS) announced Wednesday an independent review would be conducted examining the service’s use of lethal force.
In 2016, Calgary police were involved in 10 officer-involved shootings.
The review, conducted by the Honourable Chief Justice Neil Wittmann, will examine the service’s policies, procedures, practices, training, equipment and culture with respect to the use of lethal force.
In a news release, the CPS said the review is being conducted “with the goal of moving towards zero fatalities in future critical incidents.”
“The purpose of this review is not to assign individual fault in any incidents that have occurred,” the CPS said. “It will instead look for any systemic issues that could be improved to reduce the use of lethal force.”
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, CPS Police Chief Roger Chaffin said the aim of the police force is not to use force to resolve situations. “Our goal is to resolve situations as safely as possible. But force — from time to time — is still very necessary. We just need to talk to the community more about [it]. That we’re doing it in the most modern and reasonable and thoughtful way possible.”
Wittmann echoed those sentiments, saying the goal to avoid force is not just in the best interest of officers, but also to ensure public safety.
Wittmann has 50 years of legal experience, serving as a Superior Court Justice for the last 18 years of his career. In 2009, he was appointed as the Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench, where he served for seven-and-a-half years.
As part of the review, Wittmann has also been asked to consult with any experts, stakeholders or CPS members that he feels are necessary.
In response to the officer-involved shootings in 2016, Chief Chaffin pointed out the complexity surrounding those situations.
“A lot of the things that happen around a lot of officer-involved shootings are not planned events.
Things are just spontaneously happening in front of you and all of a sudden you find yourself having to make the most horrific of decisions. But the goal of this organization and the goal of this review is to make sure everything we’re doing ahead of that is being thoughtfully delivered.” said Chaffin.
Wittman was asked to provide initial thoughts on the incidents from 2016. He told the media he is not going to pre-judge or jump to any conclusions, “These matters are very complex, individualistic, and it’s almost like talking to an actuary where they are talking about a one-in-a-100-year flood and it happens every two years.
There are a number of factors involved in every incident – every incident is unique.” Wittman said.
According to Brian Thiessen, Chair of the Calgary Police Commission, a preliminary budget of $500,000 dollars has been set aside for the inquiry.
‘Too late’ for family of Anthony Heffernan
Pat Heffernan, the father of a man shot dead by police officers in a hotel room in 2015, says that while this review is “too late for Anthony,” he’s hoping the review will mean other families won’t have to face a similar situation.
“If the families don’t go through what we’re going through, it would definitely be worthwhile,” Heffernan told Global News.
“Hopefully with Chief Justice Wittman… the findings he comes up with will be implemented by the Calgary Police Service because there has been so many shootings, so many deaths.
“Right now, there’s way too much excessive force.”
Anthony was found in a drug-induced state at the Super 8 Motel on Barlow Trail NE, after police were called to the hotel for a welfare check.
Anthony was shot six times by officers, who were concerned about a syringe he was holding and refused to drop — which officers later determined had no tip.
The family has since filed a civil lawsuit against the police service.
“If it can save one other soul, then it’s never too late for that,” Heffernan said.
Heffernan said he and his family would like to speak with Wittman as part of the review.
“[We want to share] ideas we have for how officers should be trained better, educated better, and also the fact that they should be bringing in other resources to help them, whether it’s mental health, whether it’s social services, other things that have to be done and brought in,” he said.
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