The number of times RCMP officers pointed their guns at people in the past three years without shooting outpaced how often they pointed energy weapons, like Tasers, by a ratio of over five to one.
That’s according to a breakdown of use-of-force tactics released Wednesday, as calls for police reform grow in Canada and around the world. It also comes in the wake of the death of Rodney Levi, an Indigenous man who was shot by RCMP in New Brunswick last week, and other complaints of excessive force.
The RCMP say they respond to an average of 2.8 million calls per year, though the report boosted that average to 2.93 million between 2017 and 2019. Over that three-year time period, an average of 2,215 encounters required some form of intervention.
“That means that 99.9 per cent of RCMP occurrences are resolved naturally or with communication/de-escalation,” a spokesperson told Global News in an email.
The spokesperson also pointed out that there was a 29 per cent decline in the rate of intervention between 2010 and 2019. Last year marked the lowest rate of intervention within that 10-year period, at 0.073 per cent.
The report, which is based on officers’ incident reports, showed Mounties have pointed firearms at people 5,441 times between 2017 and 2019, while the guns were simply brandished as a visual deterrent 3,062 times.
Over the same time period, a conducted energy weapon was pointed on 995 occasions, and was drawn and displayed 504 times. The weapons were actually deployed a combined total of 1,438 times.
According to the report, RCMP were involved in 99 officer-related shootings between 2017 and 2019, an average of 33 a year despite a dip in 2018. Of those shootings, 26 were fatal — an average of nine per year.
Breakdown of RCMP officer intervention tactics, by year
New Brunswick RCMP are being investigated by Quebec’s police watchdog for the fatal shooting of Levi, who friends say was experiencing a mental health crisis when he encountered officers at a barbecue in Miramichi. Police say they were responding to an “unwanted person,” which has been disputed by those close to Levi.
The Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation member was shot after multiple uses of a stun gun failed to bring him down, police said.
Levi’s death came just eight days after Chantel Moore, an Indigenous woman from British Columbia, was shot dead by an officer with the Edmundston Police Department during a wellness check.
Mounties also used “hard force” by hitting people — referred to as “stuns” and “strikes” in the report — over 2,000 times. Batons were used 105 times, while forceful takedowns were applied 842 times.
Neck restraints, which have come under fire after George Floyd died while an officer kneeled on his neck, were used 72 times.
Beyond Levi’s case, the RCMP are also under fire for a pair of incidents caught on video that captured officers using force that critics have called excessive.
In Nunavut, Mounties were seen using the open door of a moving vehicle to take down an intoxicated man in early June, which has prompted internal and external investigations.
After Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam came forward with allegations that he was beaten by RCMP officers outside a casino in Fort McMurray, Alta., video released last week showing the March 10 incident drew condemnation from members of Parliament and other groups. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the video raised “serious questions” about the officers’ conduct.
On Wednesday, the Green Party’s parliamentary leader Elizabeth May called for a full inquiry into the RCMP, arguing the force “sees itself as unaccountable.”
The same day, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh urged more transparency and accountability from all police forces, including the RCMP.
Trudeau has said police reforms are needed, and has expressed confidence in Commissioner Brenda Lucki in making the necessary changes to the RCMP.
Lucki came under fire last week for saying she was “struggling” to define systemic racism within the force, instead referring to “unconscious bias.” She later walked that statement back by admitting that systemic racism does, in fact, exist within the RCMP.
The commissioner has also committed to exploring the rollout of body cameras for officers, which Trudeau says he’s discussed with Lucki recently.
While releasing the report Wednesday, the RCMP spokesperson said that officers are subject to “several internal and external review processes to ensure accountable for all police intervention occurrences and member-involved shooting instances.”
They also maintained that, while officers aren’t medical health professionals, they “have a critical role to play” in mental health calls and that de-escalation and management training has been strengthened in recent years.
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