Deadly police shootings aren’t on the rise in B.C., experts say

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      Two experts on the use of force by law-enforcement agencies say one of the biggest misconceptions regarding deadly police shootings is that these lethal encounters happen often.

      Joel Johnston and Rick Parent were interviewed in the days after two men were killed by police in separate altercations in Dawson Creek and Surrey.

      The two former Lower Mainland municipal police officers maintained that, with most calls, police are able to resolve a situation by their mere presence and through communication.

      “While these incidents, where there are shootings, gain a lot of attention, they’re incredibly rare,” Johnston told the Straight in a phone interview.

      Johnston is a former Vancouver police officer whose experience includes being seconded to the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General as the provincial use of force and municipal emergency response teams coordinator. He now has his own consulting business.

      “Under Section 25 of the Criminal Code, police officers are not only authorized to use force in the enforcement or the administration of the law. They have a requirement to do so if people are in jeopardy, including themselves,” he said.

      Johnston noted that the police do a pretty good job in dealing with calls involving people who are not at their best.

      “Police in Canada—and there’s well documented research on this—use force in 0.06 percent of their encounters with the public,” he said. “So 99.94 percent of the time, when the police deal with crime, misery, crisis, confrontation, they’re able to talk people into doing what they require them to do.”

      Asked about common misconceptions among the public regarding police shootings, Johnston said that some don’t understand that police fire only “when there is an imminent threat of grievous bodily harm or death” to either a member of the public, a police officer, or the person confronting a police officer.

      “People think that the police should engage armed people or violent, even violent unarmed people in what folks like to call ‘hand-to-hand combat’,” he said. “People don’t seem to understand that a knife is a deadly force weapon, and less than a half inch penetration or slash on many areas of the body can cause death. So a knife is not something to be trifled with.

      “And police officers are average people,” Johnston continued. “They don’t—contrary to popular belief—go out and hire ninjas from the community to become police officers. They hire Sally and Bob and Jane, who’ve done a variety of different things in their life and they’ve gone to school and some of them have never had a fight in their life. Now, they get training in dealing with confrontational situations and violent situations, but their skills are average. They get less training in use of force than the average high-school football player gets in a year to play at high-school football.”

      Johnston also noted that some people think that police officers should just shoot someone in the leg or arm, or shoot a firearm or knife out of someone’s hand.

      But according to Johnston, “If you don’t shoot somebody in an area that causes them to physiologically cease their behaviour, your tactics are not effective.”

      Hence, police are trained to target the centre of a person’s torso, which Johnston said is the “largest, slowest moving target on the human body” in order to stop a deadly threat.

      In a separate interview, Parent noted that policing isn’t an action-packed career like it’s usually perceived.

      “It’s very boring. It’s a tremendous amount of paperwork,” the SFU associate professor of criminology told the Straight by phone.

      Parent, who is also currently into consulting, likely did a lot of paperwork during his 30 years with the Delta Police Department.

      According to Parent, lethal police shootings occur roughly three times in an average year in B.C.

      “And this is for a population of over four million people and this has been consistent over the last 20, 30 years. It’s not like a spike or a decrease,” Parent said. “Consistently, police are involved in lethal encounters roughly three times a year for the last 30 years in British Columbia.”




      Jul 21, 2015 at 9:58pm

      Polis is a greek word for "military fortification." These are nothing more than military occupiers. free societies don't have only a single class allowed to carry weapons. It's an illegal monopoly is what it is.


      Jul 23, 2015 at 4:00pm

      @Morons, so your beef with the police is that they are "a single class allowed to carry weapons" or "an illegal monopoly" because you can't carry a gun. Personally, I support the right of every person to carry a gun if they have been properly trained. But I support the police also. They are the ones who are facing down gun wielding nutcases while you sip your latte. Grow up!