Q&A: City councillor calls for dialogue on police use of deadly force

In the wake of the city’s 10th police shooting of the year, a Calgary city councillor is asking pointed questions around why officers here have shot more people this year than any other Canadian city.

"The problem is we're shooting and killing too many people ... where there's confrontations with the police."

Coun. Brian Pincott is asking pointed questions in the wake of the 10th police shooting of the year in Calgary. (CBC)

In the wake of the city's 10th police shooting of the year, a Calgary city councillor is asking pointed questions around why officers here have shot more people this year than any other Canadian city.

In the latest case, a 27-year-old woman was shot and killed in Sunalta on Tuesday.

Police say she was allegedly carrying two knives and acting erratically when she was confronted by officers about 2:30 a.m. outside an apartment building in the 1700 block of 11th Avenue S.W.

It's the fifth fatal shooting involving Calgary police this year, and that has Coun. Brian Pincott calling for action.

Pincott sat down in studio with Calgary Eyeopener host David Gray on Wednesday and the following is a condensed version of their conversation.

Q: What are you calling for exactly?

Let's admit we have a problem in our city when we're seeing this rate of police shootings and the number of people that are killed by police. I think we need to start by saying we have a problem, we've avoided saying that. Our rates of shootings are, in absolute numbers, the biggest in the country, but if you want to go per capita, we have double the shootings and killings of Toronto and I refuse to believe we are twice as dangerous, or twice as violent as Toronto.

Q: OK, where is the problem? Is it in the protocols of Calgary police? Is it in the drug epidemic the city is facing? What is the problem?

The problem is we're shooting and killing too many people in situations where there's confrontations with the police, that's the problem. What's the cause of the problem? Unless we actually start having the conversation and asking the questions, we don't know. Are police equipped for a changing situation? We know we have a rise in crime in our city and police have directly related that to the opioid crisis and fentanyl. This is something that has bloomed in the last year-and-a-half, two years. This is not normal and I refuse to accept this is normal, that we're going to be shooting and killing this number of people in Calgary, and so far the conversation has been around normalizing this situation.

Q:  I'm thinking about the Calgary police officers who are in their patrol cars, listening to you on the radio, who are saying 'Councillor, how would you know? You weren't there making that decision the way the young female police officer was who pulled the trigger.

And I don't want to be there.

Q: They'll also say there's an [Alberta Serious Incident Response Team] investigation underway, what more could we do?

Let's also not forget, every time somebody gets shot or killed by police, there's not one victim, there are two. There's the person who gets shot, but there's also the police officer, or officers involved, and there can be long-term emotional and psychological ramifications that they have to live with the rest of their lives. Why should we be not looking into making sure we're doing all we can to avoid our officers being put in a position where they have to use deadly force? 

I have no doubt they do a hard job, that none of us would ever want to do, there's no question about that. Each [shooting] gets investigated by ASIRT… but when we're at a point where we're shooting this many people and we're at a 50 per cent fatality rate, it indicates to me we have a larger systemic problem. Does it lie with the police? I don't know, but we won't know that until we are able to start asking the question and not drop into our deferential role of not questioning authority.

Q: Have you put those questions to the police chief yet? About protocols, when the decision is made to use deadly force?

This is not my role as a councillor, that's what we have a Police Commission for. I can get the conversation going, I can ask the questions in public. I don't get to direct the police, that's the Police Commission's job. So, in raising this, and having the discussions we've been having yesterday and today, my hope... is they will begin to take this seriously and say 'look, we have a pattern that should not be acceptable.'"

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener