2010 to 2019 Police Intervention Options Report

Table of contents

Preface

To promote trust, transparency, and accountability for the Canadian public, the RCMP is committed to open, proactive, and routine disclosure of police intervention option data. As a first step towards this effort, the following provides a summary of the RCMP's use of police interventions over the last ten years. Due to the number of years included in this initial report, the scope will be limited to overall trends. However, moving forward, the RCMP is committed to completing annual police intervention option reports, which will report on a greater number of situational factors (for example, substance use, emotionally disturbed persons, weapons, gender) and provide provincial/territorial breakdowns.

In any interaction with the public, RCMP officers are guided by the RCMP's bias-free policing policy, which is based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination, as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, the RCMP Act, and the RCMP's core values. Bias-free policing means equitable treatment of all persons by all RCMP employees in the performance of their duties, in accordance with the law and without abusing their authority regardless of an individual's race, national or ethnic origin, skin colour, religion, gender identity or expression, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, citizenship, socio-economic status, genetic characteristics, disability, or a conviction for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

In accordance with the RCMP's bias-free policing policy, the RCMP's police intervention reporting (known as Subject Behaviour/Officer Response [SB/OR] reporting) does not currently capture the racialized or ethnic identity of the subjects officers interact with. However, during RCMP Commissioner Lucki's June 23, 2020, testimony before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, she committed to working with the Federal Privacy Commissioner to review this reporting practice with the goal of developing an approach to collecting and reporting race-based data for police interactions and interventions. This work is underway, and the RCMP looks forward to sharing updates, in a timely manner.

The Commissioner agrees it is critically important for Canadians to feel protected by the police and is committed to take whatever steps are required to enhance trust between the RCMP and the communities we serve. Body-worn video provides increased transparency, while also providing a first-person view of what a police officer encounters, often in highly dynamic and tense situations. The RCMP continually reviews its policies, procedures and equipment to ensure it is using the most effective tools in law enforcement. We have reviewed previous research and studies to draw best practices, with the desire to implement body-worn video across the RCMP. We will continue to work closely with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to ensure any concerns he has are addressed. The Commissioner has confirmed that the RCMP will engage in work and discussion with policing partners on a broader rollout of body-worn cameras. Updates on the status of this initiative will be provided, as this work progresses.

Police intervention

Section 25 of the Criminal Code provides police officers in Canada with the ability to use force in the lawful execution of their duties. All force must be used in the administration or enforcement of the law, based on reasonable grounds, and necessary.

The RCMP is the primary police of jurisdiction for approximately 22 per cent of Canada's population, and responds to an average of 2.8 million calls for service each year. Applications of intervention account for one in every 1,070 RCMP calls for service, or 0.1 per cent of all calls for service. That means that 99.9 per cent of RCMP occurrences are resolved naturally or with communication/de-escalation. Importantly, the number of occurrences does not include the countless daily interactions police officers have with the public without incident (for example, traffic stops, community involvement and engagement, school liaison officer functions, regular patrols, recruiting, etc.).

Communication is the preferred intervention for any situation and is to be used whenever tactically feasible, assuming it does not increase risk to the public and/or police. When communicating with a subject, police officers are taught to remain calm and in control, while providing clear direction. This allows time for the subject to respond, as well as time for the officer to determine how to respond. While gathering information for assessing risk, verbal and non-verbal communication can be used to build a rapport with the subject. The use of communication, both verbal and non-verbal, can be extremely effective in resolving a situation.

When police are required to intervene in a given situation, it is, by nature, complex, dynamic, and constantly evolving, often in a highly charged atmosphere. It requires split-second, calculated decision-making, based on the officer's individual risk assessment. Sometimes these interventions are captured on smart phones or video surveillance systems. These videos often capture incidents from different viewpoints and perspectives. Context, background, previous information, or information provided to an officer prior to their arrival at an incident is not always captured. These are some of the many pieces of information that are processed by a responding officer in completing a risk assessment, and making a determination about the requirement to use intervention options, and the type or amount required, ensuring that it is reasonable, necessary, and proportional.

Incident Management/Intervention Model

Whether it is verbal de-escalation or the use of an intervention option, the Incident Management Intervention Model (IMIM), and its related training material, assists officers in working through the decision-making process when it comes to interactions with the public, and determining a necessary response, based on their risk assessment of the situation. The IMIM is introduced in the second week at the RCMP Academy, Depot Division, and then integrated into all other relevant aspects of cadet training for the remaining 24 weeks. After leaving Depot, annual IMIM recertification training is mandatory for all officers. The IMIM training helps officers continually assess risk, based on the totality of the situation, including tactical considerations, the officer's perceptions, situational factors, and the subject's behaviour(s).

The circular representation of the graphic is designed to reflect the broad range of interventions that are possible in police interactions, from simple officer presence to tools for responding to rapidly evolving or dynamic situations that can occur in police work. Unlike a continuum or linear pathway, the IMIM does not lead the officer through a stepped progression of intervention options. The officer instead selects an appropriate option to control the situation that is based on their individual risk assessment and consistent with section 25 of the Criminal Code.

Incident Management/Intervention Model (IMIM)
Incident Management/Intervention Model. Text version below.
Incident Management/Intervention Model - Text version

The visual representation of the Incident Management Intervention Model is a concentric layered wheel that represents the rapidly evolving and dynamic nature of police work, as well as the continuous requirement for the police officer to evaluate the level of risk for the given situation.

At the centre is the police officer in the given situation, using the CAPRA (Clients, Acquire and Analyze, Partners, Response, and Assessment) problem solving model. The circle builds outwards helping the officer form a proper risk assessment.

The layers of the wheel in order from the centre are:

  1. Situational Factors: Reflects that situational factors are continuously changing and affecting all of the events and actions of a given police intervention.
  2. Subject Behaviours: Subject behaviours progress, from the lowest level to the highest, as follows:
    1. Cooperative
    2. Passive Resistant
    3. Active Resistant
    4. Assaultive
    5. Grievous Bodily Harm or Death
  3. Intervention Options: Intervention options blend from one to another as there are various levels of each, and their availability to be used can cross levels of "Subject Behaviour" given the totality of a situation. In order by the first intervention, the options are:
    1. Officer Presence: is the first police intervention, as an officer needs to be present to have an impact on the given situation
    2. Communication: is always required, in different forms, throughout a police Intervention
    3. Physical Control: is broken down further into "Soft Physical Control" and "Hard Physical Control" depending on the subject behaviour
    4. Intermediate Weapons: this intervention overlaps with "Physical Control". There are various levels and options available in this category
    5. Lethal Force: this intervention overlaps with "Officer Presence," "Communication," "Physical Control Hard," and "Intermediate Weapons". "Lethal Force" aligns with when the subject behaviour is "Grievous Bodily Harm or Death."
  4. Tactical Repositioning: Tactical repositioning is often available to a police officer in any given situation

Six basic principles underlie the IMIM:

  1. The primary duty of a peace officer is to preserve and protect life
  2. The primary objective of any intervention is public safety
  3. Peace officer safety is essential to public safety
  4. The IMIM is consistent with federal statute law and common law authorities and in no way replaces or augments the law
  5. The intervention model must always be applied in the context of a careful assessment of risk, taking into account the likelihood and extent of life loss, injury, and damage to property as a result of the intervention
  6. Risk assessment is a continuous process and risk management must evolve as situations change

The process of assessing an incident involves:

Careful consideration of possible factors within each of the above categories assists the officer in forming a risk assessment, responding to situations, and explaining to others how a particular situation was perceived, assessed, and responded to.

Subject Behaviour/Officer Response reporting

To enhance accountability and transparency, in 2010, the RCMP strengthened its police intervention reporting requirements to include all intervention options. The Subject Behaviour/Officer Response (SB/OR) reporting application was created to provide RCMP officers with a tool to assist them in properly explaining the circumstances in which police intervention was used. An SB/OR report captures occurrence information, environmental and situational factors, the substances and weapons that were present, a description of the subject's behaviour and the officer's corresponding response, injuries, if any, to the subject and the officer, and a detailed description of how the event unfolded.

SB/OR reports are mandatory for all officers who apply/display:

All SB/OR reports are reviewed at the supervisory level and further review and oversight is provided at the provincial/territorial level where the incident occurred. Nationally, additional oversight is provided and SB/OR reports are periodically reviewed or audited for accuracy and adherence to policy. An SB/OR report provides additional context around incidents where police intervention is used and provides statistical data on the frequency of police intervention encounters compared to overall calls for service.

SB/OR data allows for evidence-based decision-making for the development of policy, training, and equipment. By examining SB/OR reporting, we can determine areas that require further training and development, based on real-world occurrences. This allows the RCMP to focus on areas with the greatest impact. SB/OR reporting also provides the RCMP with the opportunity to be transparent with the public when it comes to the use of police intervention options. As we work towards ensuring that frontline officers are as prepared as possible when situations arise that require them to physically intervene, it is always framed by the fact that a majority of our interactions with the public do not require physical intervention at all.

Training

In the interest of public and police safety, police intervention training is continually examined to determine best practices. Communication and de-escalation are invaluable tools in ensuring the public and police are as safe as possible; unfortunately, this does not always resolve a situation, and physical intervention may be required. The following sections outline some of the training that RCMP police officers receive in the area of crisis intervention, de-escalation, and police intervention options.

Cadet training at Depot

The Cadet Training Program (CTP) is a problem-based curriculum designed to teach policing through integrated, realistic, life-like situations. It is a dynamic, adult-focused, learning environment. Learning activities include case studies, scenarios, role-playing, guided discussions, demonstrations, and practical exercises. The CTP is an extensive 26-week basic training program broken down into the following disciplines: Applied Police Sciences, Police Defensive Tactics, Operational Conditioning, Firearms, Police Driving, and Drill and Deportment. The objectives of the CTP are consistent with the RCMP's values, the IMIM training, and the operational framework known as CAPRA. The CAPRA problem-solving model helps to define the competencies necessary for effective community policing. The acronym CAPRA stands for:

At the beginning of training, cadets in the CTP are introduced to CAPRA, the IMIM, negotiation, mediation, and conflict resolution. Both CAPRA and the IMIM training highlight the importance of using communication skills in policing situations. CAPRA is integrated into the IMIM and its training, as it assists in the primary function of police, which is to help resolve problems. Communication is one of the key factors in achieving this goal, whether a police intervention is necessary or not.

The curriculum builds upon this foundation by introducing cadets to de-escalation skills, which they then apply to a full day of scenarios in which the clients are in various states of emotional distress. They continue to develop and apply their de-escalation skills throughout the remainder of training in Applied Police Sciences, Police Defensive Tactics, and Firearms scenarios.

Cadets are also introduced to intervention and de-escalation techniques specifically designed for managing policing situations in which the client is experiencing a mental health crisis. They are then provided with the opportunity to apply these techniques in scenarios involving an actor portraying a client in crisis due to a mental health issue. In addition, the cadets' ability to apply de-escalation skills are informally and formally assessed at numerous points in the CTP.

Cadets learn other intervention options in addition to communication, primarily in Police Defensive Tactics and Firearms. They are guided in the application of these options by the IMIM training, CAPRA, and the principles of conducting a continuous risk assessment to ensure public and police safety. The intervention options include police presence, various soft and hard physical control techniques, oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray (better known as pepper spray), baton, carotid control technique (also referred to as vascular neck restraint), pistol, shotgun, and carbine. Not only do cadets acquire the skills for performing the techniques and using the tools, but more importantly, they are given many opportunities to apply their understanding of Section 25 of the Criminal Code, CAPRA, and risk assessment in diverse scenarios in which they are informally and formally assessed.

Police Defensive Tactics

The Police Defensive Tactics component of the CTP is designed to provide cadets with safe and effective techniques to manage policing-related incidents within the context of the IMIM and its training. Cadets learn and practice different techniques under a variety of simulated circumstances. The techniques taught include joint locks, takedowns, use of OC spray, placement and removal of resistant subjects in and out of vehicles, moving resistant subjects through doorways, stances, blocks, strikes, use of batons, carotid control technique, grappling, ground defence, body hold releases, handcuffing and searching subjects, and use of weapon defences.

Firearms

The Firearms curriculum covers handling firearms with safety and precision for public and police safety within the provisions of law and policy. Cadets must gain competency with the RCMP-issued semi-automatic 9 mm pistol, the 12 gauge pump action shotgun, and the patrol carbine. Firearms training simulators are also used to provide cadets with training specific to decision-making in situations where firearm use may be warranted. Safe practices, accuracy, and judgement (that is, applying the IMIM) are all assessed.

In-service training

In-service training provides police officers with the skills required to support their primary duty of preserving and protecting life. Knowing that the primary objective of any intervention is public safety, and that officer safety is essential to public safety, in-service training focuses on the skills required to safely handle the wide range of situations that can occur within a policing landscape. RCMP officers must be prepared to perform under diverse and adverse conditions, in a variety of communities (urban, rural, isolated postings), and operate many types of equipment. As a result, regular recertification and mandated refresher training are required throughout an officer's career to maintain their competencies.

The vast number of competencies that must be addressed through in-service training are covered in a host of courses including:

Intervention option-specific courses include:

Training on intervention options must be meaningful, credible, defendable, informed by research (for example, medical, legal, human factors), and enable on-the-job performance.

Crisis intervention and de-escalation

Police officers are often the first responders on scene when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis. Police have a critical role to play when responding and interacting with a person with a mental illness or a person in crisis. Police officers are not medical professionals and cannot diagnose individuals. However, it is important for the police to have an understanding of mental illnesses, including the signs and symptoms of distress, in order to conduct effective risk assessments and de-escalate a mental health crisis, whenever it is tactically feasible.

Addressing the mental health needs of individuals and communities requires empathy, patience, and awareness on the part of first responders. Through crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques, many mental health crises can be managed with decreased risk to the public and police officers.

The RCMP has strengthened crisis intervention and de-escalation training for all its officers. Since 2016 an online training course on crisis intervention and de-escalation has been mandatory for all RCMP officers. The course takes approximately three hours and is available through the RCMP's e-learning portal. This mandatory training helps police officers determine when and how to use crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques, and complements what cadets learn at Depot as well as other training offered in RCMP divisions and detachments. The purpose of the course is to ensure that RCMP officers will be able to use crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques, when tactically feasible, to effectively manage these situations, including incidents involving a person with a mental illness or person in crisis. The course includes a module on some of the major mental illnesses and their observable behaviours, which can assist police officers in tailoring their approach to the person in crisis. Starting in 2021, crisis intervention and de-escalation training is scheduled to be incorporated into annual IMIM training. Also, scenarios involving crisis intervention and de-escalation training are in place as a part of regular operational skills maintenance training.

The RCMP recognizes that even in situations where crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques can be used, additional police intervention may still be necessary to protect the individual or others.

The RCMP, like other police agencies, is very supportive of a collaborative approach for people in crisis, and for individuals experiencing symptoms of distress or addiction. Some communities across Canada have mobile mental health support and outreach services, typically in the form of a psychiatric nurse. In areas where a joint mental health response is available, and when situational factors permit, national RCMP policy guidance states that officers should consult with mental health personnel first. The establishment of such joint mental health responses is contingent on resources and support from provincial and municipal health services. Mobile mental health resources are not available in all jurisdictions, leaving RCMP officers to deal with these calls unsupported in the vast majority of cases.

Operational skills maintenance and block training

Operational skills maintenance (OSM) or operational skills training (OST) is the process for police officers to remain qualified (that is, maintain the certification required to carry the intervention options) in the core elements required for policing duties. Every three years, officers are required to participate in block training exercises to refresh their skills and must recertify on the use of OC spray, baton, the carotid control technique, pistol (annual), IMIM training (annual; scenario-based training every three years), and first aid. The skills delivered in block training build on the prior learning officers acquired during the cadet training program.

Scenario-based training is an effective means of replicating real life, high-stress situations in a safe and controlled training environment. As part of refresher training, officers complete scenarios, which incorporate real-time decision-making, the IMIM and de-escalation techniques related to mental illnesses/a person in crisis. The scenarios are specifically designed, based on SB/OR data, to represent real police encounters. Officers are expected to conduct a risk assessment in order to determine the level of intervention necessary to control the situation and to then articulate the rationale behind their response based on the totality of the situation. The scenarios are designed to provide officers with a variety of subject behaviours. While some are designed to be high-stress, low frequency situations, many more are representative of everyday police interactions requiring officer presence and communication, and/or an intervention using intermediate weapons.

Immediate action rapid deployment

Immediate action rapid deployment (IARD) training, initially introduced during the cadet training program, provides police officers with the skills necessary to respond to, and intervene in, an active threat incident. Active threats involve individuals who are attempting to claim as many lives and cause as much damage as possible, in a single event. The objective of the training is to learn how to preserve and protect life by stopping the threat. In-service scenario-based training focuses on the integration of activities, skills, and tools to assist in responding to critical incidents.

Initial critical incident response

Initial critical incident response (ICIR) training is designed to teach the first police officers arriving at the scene of a critical incident how to take command of the situation, and respond in a logical and methodical fashion. Critical incidents can involve active threats (situations in which people are actively dying as a result of one or more individuals determined to cause grievous bodily harm or death), non-active threats (situations in which an individual or group has the ability and the intent to commit an act of serious violence against a specific target in the immediate future), or life-threatening disasters. The primary objective in every type of critical incident is to preserve and protect life. The training provides instruction regarding the appropriate response methodology based on the specific threat that is being faced.

Intervention option-specific training

In-service training is provided to support the safe and appropriate operation of a range of supplemental tools, including firearms (for example, shotgun, rifle, and patrol carbine) and less-lethal intervention options (that is, conducted energy weapon [CEW] and extended range impact weapon [ERIW]).

Accountability and external review process

The RCMP Act provides for legislated internal and external review processes to deal with issues related to officer conduct. There are also the Commissioner's Standing Orders, and operational and administrative policies in addition to the RCMP Act provisions that govern officer conduct. These processes ensure RCMP officers are accountable for all police intervention occurrences and officer-involved shooting incidents. The conduct process is found in Part IV of the RCMP Act, while the Code of Conduct is found in the RCMP Regulations. The Code of Conduct, which applies to every officer of the RCMP, establishes responsibilities and the standards for conduct, both on and off duty.

The Public Complaints Process, found in Part VII of the RCMP Act stipulates that any individual may make a public complaint concerning the on-duty conduct of any RCMP officer in the performance of their duties. Public complaints can be made directly to the RCMP or to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP (CRCC). The Chairperson for the CRCC may initiate a public complaint, if satisfied that there are reasonable grounds and it is in the public's interest to investigate an officer's conduct. Public Complaint and Code of Conduct investigations are normally completed by experienced RCMP officers, who have completed the Workplace Responsibility Investigation Course. The Serious Incidents protocol is found in Part VII.1 of the RCMP Act and mandates that an independent civilian investigative body (for example, Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia, Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team) or external police force conduct the investigation, whenever there is a:

  1. serious injury or death of an individual involving an RCMP officer; or
  2. where it appears that an RCMP officer may have contravened a provision of the Criminal Code or other statute and the matter is of a serious or sensitive nature.

If there is no investigative body or other police force to investigate, Serious Incidents may be investigated by the RCMP. Internal reviews may also be completed using police intervention subject matter experts or through an Independent Officer Review (IOR). An IOR is an administrative review (fact-finding inquiry) of an officer's actions and their application of the IMIM, policies, and training that is conducted by a commissioned officer/delegate who is independent of the incident.

The RCMP Act, Commissioner's Standing Orders, and related policies, are designed to ensure transparency, accountability, and openness - mandating that an independent civilian agency or external law enforcement body conduct the investigation whenever possible. More information on public complaints can be found on the RCMP public website.

Police intervention options data and trends analysis

Methodology

On June 12, 2020, an extract was taken of the SB/OR database to provide a snapshot of the data for the period of January 1, 2010, to December 31, 2019. The dataset contained information from 57,247 completed SB/OR reports,Footnote 1 which included approximately 46,375 occurrences, 54,312 subjects, and 73,506 police intervention options.

Police intervention

From 2010 to 2019, the RCMP entered an average of 2.76 million occurrences per year into RCMP records management systems. An occurrence can be any type of police-related event or activity that is entered into police records management systems. It could be generated from a call for service or something that is self-generated by a police officer, such as a traffic stop. Over this period, each year there were on average 2,600 encounters involving reportable applications of police intervention.Footnote 2 The occurrence rate of officers applying an intervention option is extremely low. Applications of police intervention account for 0.09 per cent of the total number of RCMP occurrences, or one encounter involving police intervention for every 1,067 occurrences. This indicates that approximately 99.9 per cent of RCMP encounters are resolved naturally or successfully de-escalated by officers without the need for police intervention.

As per Figure 1, there has been a general decrease in the application of police intervention options over the 10 years examined. Overall, there was a 44 per cent decline in the rate of police intervention options being applied from 2010 to 2019, with 2019 (0.075 per cent) marking the lowest rate of police intervention over a ten-year period (see Figure 1 – Text version).

Figure 1 - Application of police intervention option occurrence rate
Figure 1 - Text version
Year Police intervention options
Applied
2010 0.132%
2011 0.121%
2012 0.110%
2013 0.096%
2014 0.086%
2015 0.087%
2016 0.082%
2017 0.078%
2018 0.075%
2019 0.075%
Total for the years 0.094%

On average, there were approximately 4,600 occurrences each year where police intervention options were used, 2,600 in which an officer applied their intervention option, and 2,000 where an officer drew and displayed their intervention option as a deterrent (see Figure 2 – Text version). While the overall use of police intervention options has remained relatively stable over time, there appears to be a slight decrease in officers applying their intervention options, and an increase in the use of drawing and displaying their intervention options as a deterrent (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 - Police intervention option occurrences by year
Figure 2 - Text version
Year Police intervention options
Applied Drawn and displayed (deterrent) only Total
2010 3554 1427 4981
2011 3227 1820 5047
2012 2981 1902 4883
2013 2597 1984 4581
2014 2325 2074 4399
2015 2405 2389 4794
2016 2233 2330 4563
2017 2125 2097 4222
2018 2199 2054 4253
2019 2288 2364 4652
Total for the years 25934 20441 46375

The yearly rate of officers' use of intervention options more clearly demonstrates the downward trend in applications of force, and the increase in deterrence (see Figure 3). Specifically, Figure 3 – Text version indicates that in 2010, in the majority of cases involving the use of police intervention options (71 per cent), the intervention was applied; whereas 29 per cent of the time the intervention option was only displayed. However, by 2019, less than half (49 per cent) of occurrences involved applications of force and 51 per cent involved the use of drawing and displaying officers' intervention options.

Figure 3 - Police intervention option breakdown by year
Figure 3 - Text version
Year Police intervention options
Applied Drawn and displayed (deterrent) only
2010 71% 29%
2011 64% 36%
2012 61% 39%
2013 57% 43%
2014 53% 47%
2015 50% 50%
2016 49% 51%
2017 50% 50%
2018 52% 48%
2019 49% 51%
Total for the years 56% 44%

Physical control – Soft

Physical control soft techniques may be used to cause distraction in order to facilitate the application of a control technique. Distraction techniques include, but are not limited to, open hand strikes and pressure points. Control techniques include escorting and/or come-along techniques, joint locks, and nonresistant handcuffing, which have a lower probability of causing injury. Physical control soft is only required to be reported when it results in an injury to the subject, officer, or other person; however, officers often report these interventions even without an injury, to demonstrate an escalation and/or de-escalation in police intervention.

In 2011, takedowns were included as a category under physical control soft, which explains why there is a spike that year as data for takedowns began to be captured under this new heading. Aside from that spike in 2011, Figure 4 demonstrates a downward trend in the use of physical control soft techniques between 2010 and 2019. The data suggests that takedowns are the most commonly employed of these techniques, followed by escort/come-along techniques, joint locks, and pressure points (see Figure 4 – Text version).

Figure 4 - Physical control - soft usage by year
Figure 4 - Text version
Year Deployment type Total of deployment type
Pressure points Joint locks Takedown Escort/Come-along techniques
2010 94 375 3 527 999
2011 62 290 73 472 897
2012 51 120 469 264 904
2013 47 115 438 225 825
2014 22 92 338 164 616
2015 31 90 272 175 568
2016 16 70 258 128 472
2017 20 58 251 86 415
2018 11 77 206 97 391
2019 13 54 208 111 386
Total for the years 367 1341 2516 2249 6473

Physical control – Hard

Physical control hard techniques are intended to stop (or change) a subject's behaviour or allow the application of a control technique, and have a higher probability of causing injury to both parties. They may include takedowns and empty hand strikes such as punches and kicks. The carotid control technique, also referred to as vascular neck restraint (VNR), is also a physical control hard technique. However, RCMP training and policy limit the use of this technique to times where an officer fears grievous bodily harm or death for themselves or any other person. The carotid control technique/VNR is not a chokehold or respiratory restraint. Rather, the carotid control technique/VNR is "a technique that applies lateral compression to the vascular structure of the subject's neck resulting in partial or complete occlusion of the carotid arteries, as well as the occlusion of the jugular veins. A properly applied VNR will not compress or harm the structures located in the anterior portion of the throat, nor is it likely to cause harm to the cervical vertebrae; the subject's ability to breathe is not adversely affected during VNR compression."Footnote 3 When properly applied, the carotid control technique/VNR "is neither likely nor intended to cause serious medical outcomes".Footnote 4 In 2016, the carotid control technique/VNR training was reviewed by the RCMP to ensure best practices are employed, based on current police intervention option trends in Canada and in the law enforcement community. On June 10, 2020, RCMP Commissioner Lucki publicly stated that the RCMP would review its use of the carotid control technique. This work is underway, and the RCMP looks forward to making any necessary updates to its training and policy, in a timely manner.

In relation to other physical control hard techniques, the data shows a downward trend. Figure 5 suggests there has been a decrease over time in the use of stuns/strikes and takedowns. For example, in 2010, 1,140 stuns/strikes were recorded, whereas in 2019, 733 were recorded (see Figure 5 – Text version). The use of the carotid control technique/VNR is extremely low (that is, it was used a total of 367 times across a 10-year period) and has remained relatively stable over time.

Figure 5 - Physical control - hard usage by year
Figure 5 - Text version
Year Deployment type Total of deployment type
Stuns/Strikes Takedown Carotid Control/Vascular neck restraint
2010 1140 1174 59 2373
2011 1116 901 39 2056
2012 1044 684 42 1770
2013 926 521 42 1489
2014 806 444 39 1289
2015 736 446 48 1230
2016 730 353 26 1109
2017 649 292 25 966
2018 708 276 22 1006
2019 733 281 25 1039
Total for the years 8588 5372 367 14327

Intermediate weapons

This type of intervention involves the use of a less lethal weapon. Less lethal weapons are those whose primary use is not intended to cause serious injury or death. Oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray, conducted energy weapons, batons, and the extended range impact weapon fall within this heading.

Oleoresin capsicum spray

OC spray (better known as pepper spray) is one of the less lethal intervention options carried by officers. It has an effective range of 1 to 3 metres; therefore, officers must be close to the subject prior to deployment. In 2016, OC spray training was reviewed by the RCMP to ensure best practices are employed, based on current police intervention option trends and advancements in Canada and in the law enforcement community.

As seen in Figure 6, officers' application of OC spray has been declining; applications have decreased from 975 in 2010 to 292 applications in 2019 (see Figure 6 – Text version). For the reasons noted, the use of OC spray is rarely used as a deterrent (for example, drawn/displayed or pointed), and this has been stable across the years.

Figure 6 - Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) spray usage by year
Figure 6 - Text version
Year Deployment type Total of deployment type
Draw and display Pointed at subject Applied
2010 29 17 975 1021
2011 22 24 850 886
2012 22 12 721 755
2013 23 17 578 618
2014 12 22 504 538
2015 18 11 472 501
2016 11 17 383 411
2017 9 10 333 352
2018 4 11 303 318
2019 8 13 292 313
Total for the years 158 154 5401 5713

Conducted energy weapon

Another less lethal intervention option carried by officers is the conducted energy weapon (CEW), commonly known as the TASER. The RCMP has been using CEWs for almost 20 years.

RCMP officers are trained to deploy the CEW in three ways:

Current RCMP CEW policy states that the CEW may only be used where a subject is causing bodily harm, as defined in section 2 of the Criminal CodeFootnote 5, or if the officer believes on reasonable grounds that the subject will imminently cause bodily harm as determined by the officer's assessment of the totality of the situation.

The CEW provides RCMP officers with the ability, in some situations, to communicate with the individual from a distance. This allows for the use of crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques, where tactically feasible. In the past several years there have been technological advancements made in the field of CEWs. The RCMP continues to research and pilot the newest models on the market to ensure that officers are equipped with the most effective less lethal intervention options available. CEW training is continually reviewed by the RCMP to ensure best practices are employed, based on current police intervention option trends and advancements in Canada and in the law enforcement community. The RCMP includes crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques in CEW training, including in the scenario-based training portion.

As per Figure 7, there has been a steady increase in probe mode deployments. Between 2010 and 2013, probe mode was deployed under 200 times per year, whereas in 2019 alone, officers deployed their CEW in probe mode over 500 times (see Figure 7 – Text version). There has also been an increase in officers pointing their CEW at individuals over the years. These trends may be indicative of an increase in the use of intervention options by officers that provide more time and distance for de-escalation. The remaining CEW usages (draw and display, laser sight activated, spark display activated, and contact mode deployed) have remained relatively stable across the years. The RCMP will continue to monitor these trends for potential policy and training amendments based on the data.

Figure 7 - Conducted energy weapon usage by year
Figure 7 - Text version
Year Deployment type Total of deployment type
Draw and display Pointed at subject Laser sight activated Spark display activated Contact mode deployed Probe deployed
2010 107 228 112 5 77 135 664
2011 110 233 99 5 64 148 659
2012 104 248 105 3 58 194 712
2013 122 261 116 1 50 188 738
2014 127 336 113 3 72 258 909
2015 140 339 127 3 49 353 1011
2016 164 368 106 6 69 360 1073
2017 153 305 119 8 67 454 1106
2018 150 302 89 2 75 451 1069
2019 206 391 110 4 84 542 1337
Total for the years 1383 3011 1096 40 665 3083 9278

Baton

The baton is another less lethal intervention option carried by RCMP officers. The baton can be deployed in either closed mode or open mode. Open mode is when the baton is extended. This provides more distance between the officer and the person it is being used on. The baton is deployed from 0 to 2 feet; therefore, officers must be close to the person prior to deployment. In 2016, baton training was reviewed by the RCMP to ensure best practices are employed, based on current police intervention option trends, and advancements in Canada and in the law enforcement community.

The baton is a rarely used less lethal intervention weapon carried by officers. Since 2010, there has been a marked decline in incidents where officers applied their baton (see Figure 8). Specifically, in 2010 there were 87 baton applications, whereas in 2018, 24 applications were recorded – the lowest number of applications to date (see Figure 8 – Text version).

Figure 8 - Baton usage by year
Figure 8 - Text version
Year Deployment type Total of deployment type
Draw and display Pointed at subject Applied
2010 32 4 87 123
2011 34 0 80 114
2012 30 1 87 118
2013 34 0 76 110
2014 34 2 56 92
2015 34 0 51 85
2016 17 1 53 71
2017 14 0 44 58
2018 16 0 24 40
2019 12 1 37 50
Total for the years 257 9 595 861

Extended range impact weapon

The RCMP continually reviews police intervention option trends and advancements within Canada and in the law enforcement community. Based on these reviews the RCMP researches and conducts pilot studies on different less lethal intervention options. In 2017, the RCMP began a pilot project examining the utility of the 40 mm (that is, sponge-tipped round) extended range impact weapon (ERIW) for general duty (that is, frontline patrol officers) applications. Prior to the pilot, only Emergency Response Teams (ERT) and Tactical Support Group (TSG) carried the ERIW. The driving factor in piloting the ERIW for general duty was to provide officers with an intervention option that could be used from a distance. The goal is to provide more time and distance from the person the officer is dealing with to allow for de-escalation and communication, when tactically feasible. The RCMP has included crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques in the 40 mm ERIW training.

As can be seen in Figure 9, prior usage of the ERIW was relatively low and stable over time. This was due to its use being restricted to ERT and TSG. Then, throughout the pilot project period (2018-2019) officers used the ERIW in a general duty capacity 91 times. Of the 91 general duty usages, 68 (74.7 per cent) were drawn/displayed/pointed only and 23 (25.3 per cent) were deployed/applied. In total, as per Figure 9 – Text version, there were 30 applications of the ERIW in 2019, and 36 instances where it was drawn/displayed/pointed at an individual.

Figure 9 - Extended range impact weapon usage by year
Figure 9 - Text version
Year Deployment type Total of deployment type
Draw and display Pointed at subject Applied
2010 0 1 3 4
2011 0 0 7 7
2012 0 0 6 6
2013 2 2 6 10
2014 1 7 7 15
2015 1 12 3 16
2016 1 6 8 15
2017 2 5 3 10
2018 19 14 19 52
2019 8 28 30 66
Total for the years 34 75 92 201

Specialty munitions

General duty RCMP officers do not use speciality munitions. The speciality munitions category is used to capture the use of chemical munitions, such as 2-chlorobenzalmalonitrile (that is, CS gas or tear gas). They are limited to specialized groups such as ERT and the TSG, who must pass a chemical munitions course during their training to be eligible to deploy them. CS gas irritates the mucous membranes causing a burning sensation in the eyes, nose and throat, nasal discharges, and tearing and closing of the eyes. The use of this less lethal tool during critical incidents reduces the risk of officers having to enter an unknown dwelling or structure.

There has been a notable increase in the application of specialty munitions by ERT and TSG officers over time (see Figure 10). The application of this intervention option more than doubled between 2015 and 2016 (from 4 applications to 10, respectively). In 2017, there were 25 applications of specialty munitions, 44 in 2018, and 50 in 2019 (see Figure 10 – Text version). Over the years, ERT has adopted more effective specialty munitions, improved their delivery methods, and developed even more dedicated training on their use. The improvements made in the use of speciality munitions is one of the biggest advancements in ERT tactics. Speciality munitions and their associated physiological and psychological effects can help facilitate high rates of surrender, de-escalating the situation. This has established CS gas as an effective intervention for subject and officer safety, which has led to its increased use. The observed increase starting in 2016 may also be due, in part, to guidelines National Headquarters provided to teams across the country clarifying reporting requirements. This may have resulted in an increase in reporting compliance. The trend is expected to level off as those officers who typically use specialty munitions (that is, ERT and TSG) continue to regularly report their use of this intervention option. The RCMP will continue to monitor these trends for potential policy and training amendments based on the data.

Figure 10 - Specialty munitions usage by year
Figure 10 - Text version
Year Deployment type Total of deployment type
Applied
2010 6 6
2011 3 3
2012 1 1
2013 3 3
2014 4 4
2015 4 4
2016 10 10
2017 25 25
2018 44 44
2019 50 50
Total for the years 150 150

Other

The "other" category captures an RCMP officer using a weapon of opportunity (that is, items that they do not carry as a standard intervention option, but were available at the scene), such as a flashlight, rather than a police-issued intervention option. An officer may use such an intervention, for example, when they are involved in a struggle on the ground and are unable to access their standard intervention equipment.

There has been a relatively stable trend in officers using weapons of opportunity. Aside from a slight peak in applications of these "other" options in 2012 (see Figure 11), officers have reported 33 to 64 usages per year across the 10 years examined (see Figure 11 – Text version).

Figure 11 - Other intervention option (i.e., weapons of opportunity) usage by year
Figure 11 - Text version
Year Deployment type Total of deployment type
Applied
2010 48 48
2011 64 64
2012 83 83
2013 51 51
2014 47 47
2015 53 53
2016 33 33
2017 35 35
2018 48 48
2019 50 50
Total for the years 512 512

Police service dog

Police service dogs (PSD) are first and foremost a searching and tracking tool. They are used to search for subjects who have fled the scene of an investigation, subjects who are hiding or attempting to evade apprehension, missing persons, drugs, avalanche victims, and explosives. As of April 1, 2019, the RCMP had a total of 165 Police Dog Services (PDS) team positions across the country. Of those, 147 are General Duty and 18 are Specialty Detection Teams (narcotics or explosives). Police Service Dog Handlers are responsible for their dog, and must always keep the dog under control. When the dog is deployed for the purpose of criminal apprehension, it is with the expectation that the dog, if required, will engage the subject with a bite. Often this is not required, as the presence and warning of the PSD alone will achieve the required change in behaviour. Should a PSD be deployed and the subject's behaviour changes, the dog handler can recall their dog prior to a bite. Like other intermediate intervention options, the dog handler is required to report deployments of their dog when they believe their presence resulted in a behaviour change from the subject, whether they were deployed for the purpose of a criminal apprehension or not, in accordance with SB/OR policy.

All potential dog handlers attend the Police Dog Service Training Centre, located in Innisfail, Alberta. The potential dog handlers must complete the Basic Dog Handler Course (for a new handler training a potential PSD), which is a mandatory 85-day course. Once the dog handler has successfully completed the course, they must complete a minimum of eight hours per week dedicated for PDS team training during their scheduled work hours. PDS teams are required to complete an annual validation for all profiles, such as tracking, obedience, small article searching, person search in a building or compound, and one of the following specialty profiles: narcotics, explosives or human remains, and apprehension. Apprehension includes two exercises. The first exercise is a "call off", which consists of the team demonstrating pre-bite control prior to the dog being commanded to apprehend a fleeing subject. Then the dog must abort the approach without making contact with the subject on the dog handler's verbal command. The second exercise is an apprehension exercise, which consists of the team demonstrating pre-bite control while dealing with an uncooperative subject. The dog must remain in a position of control until given the command to apprehend the subject. The dog must also demonstrate confidence while dealing with the subject. The dog must release on verbal command of the dog handler and demonstrate post-bite control while the handler conducts a search and escort of the subject.

The 10-year trend-line suggests that the use of police dog presence and for tracking purposes has remained relatively stable (see Figure 12). However, police dog bites have increased over the years. As per Figure 12 – Text version, 291 bites were recorded in 2010, and from 2015 onwards, more than 400 bites were recorded each year. The RCMP will continue to monitor these trends for potential policy and training amendments based on the data.

Figure 12 - Police service dog usage by year
Figure 12 - Text version
Year Deployment type Total of deployment type
Presence only Track only Bite
2010 62 108 291 461
2011 140 192 294 626
2012 210 306 339 855
2013 158 217 257 632
2014 130 191 305 626
2015 213 234 430 877
2016 189 216 429 834
2017 141 232 408 781
2018 169 171 461 801
2019 196 190 424 810
Total for the years 1608 2057 3638 7303

Firearm

This intervention option primarily involves the use of conventional police firearms (for example, duty pistol, shotgun, rifle, patrol carbine). RCMP officers are trained to only use their firearms when they fear grievous bodily harm or death to themselves or any other person. With their firearm drawn and displayed or pointed at a person, an officer may attempt to de-escalate a situation through communication while being prepared to deploy lethal force, based on the totality of the situation. Often, a firearm may be drawn and/or pointed at a person while another officer attempts crisis intervention de-escalation using communication, and/or uses other less lethal intervention options.

Overall, the frequency of officers drawing and displaying their firearm has remained stable over the years (see Figure 13). The number of times an officer drew and displayed their firearm ranged from 781 (in 2010) to 1233 (in 2015; see Figure 13 – Text version). Similarly, the number of times officers pointed their firearm at a subject has not changed drastically over the 10 years examined. There was a slight increase in 2015, when 2272 instances were recorded. Most recently, in 2019, 1946 instances of an officer pointing their firearm at a subject were recorded, which is on par with prior years.

Figure 13 - Firearm usage (excluding officer-involved shootings) by year
Figure 13 - Text version
Year Deployment type Total of deployment type
Draw and display Pointed at subject
2010 781 1366 2147
2011 991 1866 2857
2012 955 1778 2733
2013 1028 1839 2867
2014 992 1892 2884
2015 1233 2272 3505
2016 1069 2076 3145
2017 1001 1687 2688
2018 909 1836 2745
2019 1163 1946 3109
Total for the years 10122 18558 28680

Officer-involved shootings

Communication, de-escalation, and less lethal intervention options are invaluable tools in ensuring that the public and police are as safe as possible; unfortunately, this does not always resolve a situation, and lethal force (that is, discharge of a firearm) may be required. In incidents involving serious injury or death, the RCMP Act mandates that an independent civilian investigative body or external police force conduct the investigation. The RCMP will continue to review all external investigative reports and their recommendations so that necessary amendments to policy, training, and equipment can be adopted to enhance public and police safety.

From 2010 to 2019, officers discharged a firearm in 0.0008 per cent of occurrences — or one in approximately 130,000 occurrences (see Figure 14 – Text version). In that same time span, officers discharged a firearm resulting in a fatality in 0.0002 per cent of occurrences — or one in approximately 413,000 occurrences. As seen in Figure 14, there was a spike in total officer-involved shootings in 2015, which increased the rate from 0.0008 per cent in 2014 to 0.0012 per cent the following year. Most recently, in 2019, officers discharged their firearm in 0.0011 per cent of occurrences, and in 0.0003 per cent of occurrences officers discharged a firearm resulting in a fatality.

Figure 14 - Officer-involved shooting occurrence rate by year
Figure 14 - Text version
Year Officer-involved shootings
Fatal Total
2010 0.0002% 0.0004%
2011 0.0003% 0.0008%
2012 0.0002% 0.0006%
2013 0.0002% 0.0005%
2014 0.0001% 0.0008%
2015 0.0003% 0.0012%
2016 0.0002% 0.0005%
2017 0.0004% 0.001%
2018 0.0002% 0.0007%
2019 0.0003% 0.0011%
Total for the years 0.0002% 0.0008%

From 2010 to 2019, RCMP officers were involved in 212 officer-involved shootings (an average of 21 shootings per year), of which 67 (an average of 7 shootings per year) resulted in the death of the subjectFootnote 6 (see Figure 15 – Text version). There has been an increase in the number of officer-involved shooting occurrences over the years, driven mostly by non-fatal encounters (see Figure 15). Specifically, in 2010 there were 6 non-fatal shootings, while in 2019, there were 24 non-fatal shootings. There was a marked jump in non-fatal shootings in 2015. There has also been a slight increase in fatal shootings, although these are generally rare (10 or fewer per year).

Figure 15 - Officer-involved shooting occurrences by year

Note

The non-fatal category includes six subjects that died from self-inflicted injuries, not from police discharge of a firearm. One fatal occurrence in 2016 involved the death of two subjects, for a total of 68 fatalities.

Figure 15 - Text version
Year Officer-involved shootings
Non-fatal Fatal Total
2010 6 6 12
2011 13 7 20
2012 11 6 17
2013 9 5 14
2014 19 4 23
2015 24 8 32
2016 8 5 13
2017 18 10 28
2018 13 7 20
2019 24 9 33
Total for the years 145 67 212

Figure 16 provides further insight into the rate of officer-involved shootings broken down by year. Aside from the increase in non-fatal shootings in 2014-2015 (and concurrent decrease in fatal shootings during this time period), the trend appears to be relatively stable over time, indicating that on average 68 per cent of officer-involved shootings are non-fatal (see Figure 16 – Text version).

Figure 16 - Officer-involved shooting breakdown by year
Figure 16 - Text version
Year Officer-involved shootings
Non-fatal Fatal
2010 50% 50%
2011 65% 35%
2012 65% 35%
2013 64% 36%
2014 83% 17%
2015 75% 25%
2016 62% 39%
2017 64% 36%
2018 65% 35%
2019 73% 27%
Total for the years 68% 32%

From 2010 to 2019, there were 83 officer-involved shootings (an average of 8 per year), where the subject(s) discharged a firearm (see Figure 17 – Text version). In 25 incidents (30 per cent), the officers were fired upon, but did not return fire. These incidents resulted in 23 RCMP officers being shot in the line of duty; four of which were fatally wounded. The number of officer-involved shootings where a subject(s) discharged a firearm has fluctuated across the years (see Figure 17). In 2014, there was a marked increase, with 12 incidents and 9 officers shot. Notably, five of the officers shot in 2014 were involved in the shooting in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Figure 17 - Officer-involved shooting breakdown by year (where a subject discharged a firearm)
Figure 17 - Text version
Year Officer-involved shootings
Subject(s) discharged firearm Officers non-fatally shot Officers fatally shot
2010 6 0 0
2011 12 4 0
2012 11 2 0
2013 2 0 0
2014 12 6 3
2015 7 2 1
2016 7 1 0
2017 7 0 0
2018 11 2 0
2019 8 2 0
Total for the years 83 19 4

Summary

To promote trust, transparency, and accountability for the Canadian public, the RCMP is committed to open, proactive, and routine disclosure of police intervention option data. As a part of our on-going efforts, this report provides a summary of the RCMP's use of police interventions over the last ten years. From the data, it is clear that encounters involving the application of police intervention options are infrequent. In fact, 99.9 per cent of RCMP occurrences are resolved naturally or with communication/de-escalation. There has also been a 44 per cent decline in the rate of police intervention options being applied from 2010 to 2019, with 2019 (0.075 per cent) marking the lowest occurrence rate of police intervention over a ten-year period. Importantly, the number of occurrences does not include the countless daily interactions police officers have with the public without incident.

Communication and crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques are the preferred intervention for any situation and are to be used whenever tactically feasible, assuming it does not increase risk to the public and/or police. When police are required to intervene in a given situation, it is, by nature, complex, dynamic, and constantly evolving, often in a highly charged atmosphere. It requires split-second, calculated decision-making, based on the officer's individual risk assessment. The appropriateness of an individual officer's actions in any particular encounter must be judged based on the reasonableness, necessity, and proportionality of their actions, given the totality of the circumstances and consistent with the Criminal Code. Accordingly, the RCMP Act, Commissioner's Standing Orders, and related policies, are designed to ensure transparency, accountability, and openness - mandating that an independent civilian agency or external law enforcement body conduct the investigation whenever possible. These processes ensure RCMP officers are accountable for all police intervention occurrences and officer-involved shooting incidents.

As part of on-going modernization efforts, the RCMP will continue to proactively monitor the data and make evidence-based decisions to improve public and police safety. We respond to the changing risks and needs of the public, the communities we serve, and our officers by continually assessing, developing, and modifying policy and training. The RCMP also continues to modernize police intervention and safety equipment by identifying, researching, and at times evaluating equipment through pilot projects. Some examples of current and ongoing police intervention initiatives include:

Moving forward, the RCMP is committed to completing annual police intervention option reports. Future reports will include data on a greater number of situational factors (for example, substance use, emotionally disturbed persons, weapons, gender) and provide provincial/territorial breakdowns. They will also include updates on key accountability mechanisms such as our work with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and our policing partners on the collection and reporting on race-based data for police interactions and interventions, as well as the broader rollout of body-worn cameras. The annual reports will also provide updates on key initiatives related to public and police safety, transparency, and accountability.

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