CANADA – Ottawa Police union echoes chief’s comments in face of ombudsman’s criticisms (2013-11-07)

Published on November 7 2013 by admin

[[ SUMMARY / COMMENTS : The head of the Ottawa police union accepts police oversight (the minimum!), but, like the police chief, says there isn’t a pressing need for talks around de-escalation tactics here because local officers already do it all the time. “To echo the chief’s comments, we already do a lot of de-escalation. Our whole training is around de-escalation,” Skof said, adding that the police union was against the decision to no longer use taser-cams ($429 each) captured police-perspective video, which could be key in use-of-force investigations, arguing for body-worn cameras which result in a clearance rate higher than 90 per cent in cases where there have been complaints. “A picure is worth a thousand words”, as they say on the TASER site.]]

Ottawa Citizen, by Shaamini Yogaretnam

OTTAWA — The president of the Ottawa police union says that while he accepts police oversight there isn’t a pressing need for talks around de-escalation tactics here because local officers already do it all the time.

Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof on Wednesday backed up police Chief Charles Bordeleau in responding to criticism of their force from Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin.

Skof echoed comments from Bordeleau a day earlier that he hasn’t formally heard from Marin, who is conducting an investigation into police use-of-force in the province.

On Tuesday, Marin said the Ottawa police force has been one of those reluctant to co-operate with his investigation.

“I’ve been working with the chief now for a year-and-a-half. If there’s something that we’re missing here, that we’re not participating in, let us know, because we take our direction from the (Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services) and we have always co-operated,” Skof said.

“To echo the chief’s comments, we already do a lot of de-escalation. Our whole training is around de-escalation,” Skof said.

“It’s not that the union doesn’t accept oversight, it’s quite the contrary. We’re just not seeing this need.”

In an editorial board meeting with the Citizen on Tuesday, Marin characterized those kinds of statements as defensive “instant” reactions, which he said he hoped would pass over time as his investigation continued.

Marin also criticized Bordeleau for removing cameras from Tasers that captured police-perspective video, which could be key in use-of-force investigations.

“I don’t think that was a very wise move,” Marin said.

Even former SIU director Ian Scott, who left the helm of the civilian body that oversees forces in the province in mid-October, heralded Ottawa police’s decision to initially equip the weapons with cameras before being told that the cameras had since been removed. Scott said video was the most powerful tool available in use-of-force investigations.

Skof has long said that police ought to be looking at newer technology around body-worn cameras or lapel cameras, but said he agrees with Bordeleau’s decision to stop using the Taser cameras.

Skof said across the country, forces are seeing an officer-clearance rate higher than 90 per cent in cases where there have been complaints when some kind of video was available. Often, that clearance is immediate, doing away with a lengthy and costly process.

The company that monopolizes the conducted energy weapon industry would agree.

“A picture is worth a thousand words, a video is even better,” entices the Taser website. But, the lure isn’t just suggested, it’s spelled out.

“The TASER CAM™ law enforcement video recorder offers increased accountability — not just for police officers, but for the people they arrest. Without video, it can be the officer’s word against the suspect’s word. Now with the TASER CAM recorder, every potential TASER X26 deployment can be documented with full audio and camera video.”

The cameras, priced at $424.95 US each, automatically engage anytime the weapon’s safety is released.

Bordeleau maintains that evidence Ottawa police received suggested the cameras were ineffective given the cost.

“One of the issues is that the camera was draining the battery rapidly from the Taser halfway through the shift,” Bordeleau said. “The positioning of the camera on the handle of the Taser is problematic because if you’re using a Taser using two hands you’re covering up the camera.

“The quality of the video is extremely grainy and it was very poor quality.”

The activation, though automatic, also didn’t happen until the weapon was removed from its holster and pointed, effectively eliminating the much-needed police context that frames using force.

“We’re an organizations that makes decisions based on evidence,” Bordeleau said.

The ombudsman was not available for an interview Wednesday after speaking at length to the Citizen on Tuesday. In that meeting, Marin said he would be sending letters out to all police chiefs and unions in the province seeking their input in the investigation.

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Police+union+echoes+chief+comments+face+ombudsman+criticisms/9134604/story.html

 

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