Use of force by Saskatoon police drops 3.4 per cent

Police in Saskatoon used less physical force to restrain people last year, but say crystal meth led to the need for more restraining of suspects in detention.

Fewer police chases, more Tasers and meth-fueled suspects, report shows

Police arrest a suspect on the west side of Saskatoon in 2015. (CBC\Dan Zakreski)

Saskatoon police used weapons and physical force less in 2018 than they did the year before, according to newly released statistics.

Officers used force on 47 fewer occasions than they did in 2017 during initial contact with suspects, handcuffing, searches, arrests and transportation, wrote Insp. Patrick Nogier in a report to Saskatoon's police commissioners..

"This could potentially be attributed to an enhanced emphasis on de-escalation techniques and increasing officer experience," Nogier wrote.

Overall, police reviewed 253 instances in 2018 where officers reported the use of force.

Saskatoon police officers search a suspect's vehicle. (CBC\Dan Zakreski)

'Noticeable reduction' in vehicle chases

Nogier said that compared to 2017, he saw a "noticeable reduction" in the number of times officers tried to pursue a vehicle.

Last year, police engaged in 180 vehicle chases. This year that fell by nearly 40 per cent.

Meanwhile, police dogs bit people 21 times last year, compared to 33 dog bites in 2017.

More 'erratic', meth-fueled suspects held in restraint chair

Officers did report having to use force almost twice as often this year in incarcerating suspects, with a "substantial rise in the use of a restraint chair" inside Saskatoon police cells.

The device is to be used when someone demonstrates violent, suicidal or self-destructive behaviour, police said.

Suspects were bound in the restraint chair 23 times last year, compared to 8 times in 2017.

A Saskatoon Police Service detention cell. (Don Somers/CBC)

"This dangerous and erratic behaviour being displayed by those requiring the restraint chair is likely fuelled by substance abuse and the volatility of street drugs containing methamphetamine," Nogier said.

People in the chair are "closely monitored by detention and medical personnel by way of audio-visual communications to ensure they don't experience any medical issues," Nogier wrote. 

Taser use has tripled since 2016

The use of conducted energy weapons, or Tasers, has tripled since 2016, with 33 instances where Tasers were fired in Saskatoon last year.

The report's findings will be reviewed by Saskatoon's Board of Police Commissioners at its meeting today.

"This dialogue should help in dispelling misconceptions, promoting transparency and encouraging accountability within our community," the report concluded.


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