‘Use of force’ used only a fraction of the time, say Abbotsford Police

Only one tenth of one per cent of police interactions result in what would be considered “use of force,” according to Abbotsford Police, referencing recent Canadian data.

Protesters rallied in Kelowna last weekend against what they considered an excessive use of force by an RCMP officer in that city.

Protesters rallied in Kelowna last weekend against what they considered an excessive use of force by an RCMP officer in that city.

Only one tenth of one per cent of police interactions result in what would be considered “use of force,” according to Abbotsford Police, referencing recent Canadian data.

Deputy Chief Rick Lucy addressed the issue at Tuesday’s police board meeting, saying it is timely because of recent high-profile situations.

This week, Abbotsford Police completed their investigation into whether a Kelowna RCMP officer used excessive force with a man who was kicked in the head during his arrest. The incident was captured on video by a news reporter.

Police have recommended that Const. Geoff Mantler be charged with assault causing bodily harm.

Also this week, a public hearing was ordered into the conduct of two Abbotsford police officers.

Lucy said use of force is inevitable on occasion, but the onus is on the officer to ensure the tactics used are “lawful, justified and appropriate.

“It is all built on the premise that we are, first and foremost, here to protect people,” he said.

Lucy said police have a number of responses they can use when dealing with a difficult or aggressive subject. These include firearms, pepper spray, batons, Tasers, beanbag shotguns, and their hands. Training, depending on the weapon, is done on an annual or bi-annual basis.

Lucy said some use-of-force situations can look harsh to the public.

“It’s often done very aggressively …. this can look ugly. There’s just no way around that.”

He said circumstances can change quickly, and an officer might react differently from how a colleague would.

“Most of the time, the officer’s presence and good use of dialogue is the end of the story.”

Two Abbotsford Police officers became the subjects of a YouTube video while they were making an arrest on Oct. 9, 2009.

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) issued notice last Friday of the public hearing for Const. Doug Lemna and Const. Daryle Young. A hearing date and location have not yet been set.

The two officers were carrying out a foot patrol in Ravine Park in Abbotsford when they witnessed what appeared to be a drug transaction in a driveway across the street. Two suspects were ordered to the ground.

Lemna, who was an acting sergeant at the time, applied force to the head and body of one of them, the notice states.

It also states that Young stepped on the back of the same suspect’s knees, and also applied force with his knee to the man’s lower back.

The Abbotsford Police Department conducted an internal investigation into the matter and issued its ruling on Dec. 15.

Chief Bob Rich concluded that the allegation of abuse of authority by Lemna was not substantiated.

He concluded that one allegation of the use of unnecessary force was warranted in relation to Young.

The OPCC can schedule a hearing when it believes the matter needs further investigation. It will also determine what, if any, disciplinary action will be issued.

Police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe stated in the notice, after reviewing the investigation and the conclusions, that a public hearing was necessary to “preserve or restore public confidence in the investigation of misconduct and the administration of police discipline.”

Lemna was also charged last March with assault in relation to a different incident. That matter is still before the courts.

Another Abbotsford police officer, Const. Alex Wood, faces a public hearing this week. The matter was scheduled to begin today(Wednesday) and conclude Friday at the Robson Square Courthouse.

The hearing will consider whether Wood used excessive force when confiscating a digital camera in April 2008.

Abbotsford resident Jonathan Peters accused Wood of breaking his finger while seizing his camera.