Calgary had more police shootings this year than some of Canada's biggest cities combined

Calgary police shot more people this year than their counterparts in many other big Canadian cities, according to a CBC News analysis.

Nine people shot by Calgary police, five of them fatally

Calgary police shot nine people, killing five, in 2018, coming close to the record they set two years ago with 10 shootings.

Calgary police shot more people this year than their counterparts in many other big Canadian cities, according to a CBC News analysis.

Officers shot nine people, killing five, coming close to the record they set two years ago with 10 shootings. The 2016 tally was the highest among Canadian cities and helped trigger an independent review that made dozens of recommendations on the use of force.

In Toronto — Canada's biggest city which dealt with record levels of violence this year — there were two police shootings in 2018, one of them fatal.

Here's a breakdown of police shootings in big Canadian centres this year:

  • Calgary - 9 (5 fatal).
  • Niagara Region - 3 (no fatal).
  • Edmonton - 2 (both fatal).
  • Toronto - 2 (one fatal).
  • Ottawa - 1 (fatal).
  • Winnipeg - 1 (not fatal).
  • Halifax - 1 (fatal).
  • Vancouver - 0.

CBC News found reports of one police shooting in Montreal, but police said they were short-staffed during the holidays and couldn't confirm whether there were more.

Acting police Chief Steve Barlow says his officers respond to threats in a way they feel is justified at the time. (CBC)

In Calgary, acting police Chief Steve Barlow said his officers respond to threats in a way they feel is justified. He said comparing shooting totals in Calgary with those in other cities is unfair.

"I don't know what their call load is. I don't know the dynamics of what they've been involved in, in these years. So to try and compare would be very difficult," he said.

"I don't want to ever see any of my officers involved in these situations because they're horrendous for themselves, for the other officers involved, the public and the people involved."

Calgarians should be concerned, defence lawyer says

Calgary defence lawyer Andrea Urquhart said this year's tally is troubling, especially when compared against other big cities, such as Toronto.

Police in Canada's biggest city say there were more shootings and gun seizures in 2018 than in most previous years. They also grappled with a record number of homicides, a deadly van attack and a mass shooting.

"The statistics on their own are concerning," Urquhart said. "Citizens need to be engaged and concerned about what recommendations have previously been made to CPS and what CPS is doing to adopt those recommendations."

The record number of shootings in 2016 helped lead to the independent review of the use of force by Calgary police.

Retired Court of Queen's Bench chief justice Neil Wittmann made dozens of recommendations in a report last spring, including calls for more training on de-escalating threats and for officers to carry less-lethal weapons.

There were two police shootings in Calgary last year. But in the last three years, there have been a total of 21.

All nine police shootings this year remain under investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, an oversight watchdog.

Calgary doesn't have problem with use of force, criminologist says

Criminologist Kelly Sundberg, who provided advice to Wittmann's team, said he doesn't believe police in Calgary have a problem with the use of force.

Sundberg, an associated professor at Mount Royal University, said the number of shootings has likely been driven by several factors, including Calgary's expanding population, a spike in meth use and the opioid crisis.

Calgary criminologist Kelly Sundberg says he believes Calgary police are taking the right steps to improve their use of force. (Sam Martin/CBC News)

Still, he noted the number of police shootings per capita is higher than in other Canadian cities, which "warrants examination and I know the police are doing that."

Sundberg said Calgary police have taken meaningful steps to implement the Wittmann report, with revamped training for new recruits and new training and education for existing officers.

"They've been methodical in their move forward and trying to do the best they can without rushing things," he said.

"I get that can be somewhat frustrating for members of the community, but I do believe they're doing the right thing."

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