Edmonton police stats show increase in use of force

· The Pulse

Members of the Edmonton Police Service used force in the first half of this year 7% more often than they did during the same period last year, continuing an upward trend that dates back to at least 2018.

The semi-annual Control Tactic Report, presented at the Sept. 22 meeting of the Edmonton Police Commission, indicated there were 1,522 occurrences of the use of force from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2022, up from 1,429 during the same period in 2021.

The number of individuals subjected to use of force in the first half of the year has risen steadily year-over-year, from 1,281 in 2018 to 1,660 in 2022, though the number of those people needing medical treatment has been trending downward since 2019, reaching a low of 55 this year.

These figures were released amid an uproar over a video showing an officer shoving a woman to the ground near the Hope Mission on Sept. 15. A bystander's 12-second video of the incident led many to criticize the officer's actions as unnecessarily brutal; a longer video captured by closed-circuit television, which was released at the police commission meeting, confirmed that she had a knife, although she did not appear to be "brandishing" it when the officer shoved her.

"What the video shows to me — this 12-second video and the longer two-minute video that was released — is a dehumanization of the person that they're supposed to be serving here," said Mack Male on Episode 191 of Speaking Municipally, Taproot's civic affairs podcast. "It was a really violent push to the ground. I'm not sure you can look at that video and draw any other conclusion other than, 'Was that the best way to handle that? Was there no other way to de-escalate the situation?'"

A chart showing the number of control tactic reports and occurrences from 2018 to 2022 and a table showing the percentage change from year to year

The semi-annual report on control tactics, presented to the Edmonton Police Commission's Sept. 22 meeting, shows a steady increase in the number of individuals subjected to force, comparing year-over-year figures for Jan. 1 to June 30. (Edmonton Police Service)

The uproar led some to renew calls for body cameras on police, including Coun. Keren Tang.

Staff Sgt. Michael Elliott, president of the Edmonton Police Association, replied in a tweet to Tang that he supported body cameras but called on city council to fund them. Male and his co-host, Troy Pavlek, found that demand unreasonable.

"A police service that already gets over $400 million a year from us shouldn't need more money to implement them if they think it's actually going to improve their service," Male said.

Furthermore, they noted, the police service had already determined that dash cams were a better option than body cams, and then when the EPS got $4 million for dash cams, it chose to spend the money on something else.

The call for video to back up police assertions around their use of force speaks to a lack of trust that has been growing, Pavlek suggested.

"Police trust has been massively eroded in the past few years and over the past decade," said Pavlek. "And I think that is emblematic of why this response (to the shoving video) was the way it was."

Hear their full discussion on the Sept. 23 edition, along with a look at police overtime during the "freedom convoy" protests, city council's scrutiny of End Poverty Edmonton's budget, and Pavlek's frustrated effort to secure a rebate for solar panels.