Police commission and police union trade barbs over use-of-force review
The review announced Wednesday comes in the wake of a record number of police shootings last year
By Meghan Grant, CBC News Posted: May 18, 2017 12:10 PM MT Last Updated: May 18, 2017 2:19 PM MT
Calgary police officers received a harshly worded letter from their union president Thursday, criticizing the chief's decision to review the service's use-of-force policies, given the "hefty price tag" and the fact there have been no fatal officer-involved shootings this year.
Les Kaminski's letter to CPS members comes in the wake of Calgary police Chief Roger Chaffin's announcement of the review on Wednesday.
"The association is not blind to the fact that the chief has found the budget to move this project forward," wrote Kaminski. "This is especially disconcerting considering the chief has ordered a hiring freeze on all support staff levels."
Chaffin announced the recently retired Court of Queen's Bench Chief Justice Neil Wittmann would conduct the review with an initial budget of $500,000.
Criticizing use of judge
The head of the police union also blasted Chaffin's decision to assign the review to Wittmann.
"It also concerns your association that the chief has abdicated his responsibilities as chief to a judge in the face of political pressure," he wrote.
The review comes after Calgary officers shot more people in 2016 than police in any other Canadian city, though Kaminksi says he believes that statistic was an anomaly and points out there have been no officer-involved fatalities this year.
The goal of the review is to come up with recommendations to curb incidents of deadly force in an effort to "have zero fatalities in future critical incidents," CPS said in its Wednesday release.
That goal and the review itself is also supported by the Calgary Police Commission, which released a statement Thursday afternoon conveying its disappointment in Kaminski's criticisms.
"Having someone of Justice Wittman's stature and ability take an objective look at how the CPS can implement tactics, training, policies and procedures that aspire to a 'zero' target of fatalities is something I hoped we could all agree on," wrote commission chair, Brian Thiessen.
Theissen called Kaminski's connection between the budget for the review to salary and staffing levels "inappropriate and inaccurate."
"We cannot, and should not, put a price tag on officer and public safety."
Kaminski says he believes he's on the same page as CPS and the commission but says the review could have been done in-house.
"We all want the citizens of this city to be as safe as they can be … did we need an external review on this?" he said.
"We have to be very careful when we decide when we spend that kind of money."
'Courageous, critical decisions'
Kaminski, who's facing charges of perjury and assault with a weapon in relation to a 2008 arrest, told members that policing is dangerous work and he will stand by all officers who are involved in shootings.
"The reality is that we have a sworn duty to protect society, and on occasion violent criminals will take actions which dictate that our members must make these courageous, critical decisions," he wrote.
"When that time comes, you can rest assured that you will have the full support of your association."
A spokesperson for the Calgary Police Service declined to comment.
On mobile? View the letter from the Calgary Police Association here.
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