Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Reflections on a Meeting with Hamilton's Top Cop

        I was recently invited by Hamilton Police Services Chief of Police, Glenn De Caire to talk about the services potential introduction of more conducted energy weapons (typically referred to as "taser's"). I really appreciated the Chief's invitation. Issues like this is what I studied in my undergraduate, criminology. I know a lot about police use of force and as a social worker I have a lot of opinions about it. So, naturally I was a little concerned that the Chief would have a hard time hearing what I had to say. Mostly because I have legitimate concerns with Hamilton Police introducing more "taser's" into their use of force.

Now, don't me wrong — I am an advocate of non-lethal force when it is possible however, the "taser" is not an alternative to deadly force. This is an important point to understand when we discuss the rollout of more "taser's" in Hamilton. The implication is not that police will use non-lethal force in situations which necessitate the use of lethal force, in fact I believe in police safety and think that considering non-lethal force in the instance of lethal force for police could be dangerous.

So, considering that the "taser" is not an alternative to lethal force, then when will it be used!? Well, in all the other situations where police wish to physically intervene and ideally do not have other options: i.e. safety is a concern. The statistics on who gets "tased" however is shocking; men are overrepresented and especially men who suffer from known mental health issues, men who live in poverty, and men who are marginalized in a number of other ways.

There is an extremely important question to ask here, do police know that people with mental health issues often times do not trust police and often times find their presence terrifying. Police likewise (as it has been exposed in research literature) share similar attitudes towards individuals with mental illness, police report "not understanding them" seeing them as "unpredictable and therefore dangerous."
Hamilton's Chief of Police, Glenn De Caire picture in his office.

Much to my surprise, Chief Glen De Caire responded in kind, he thoughtfully listened to my review of the data and heard my concerns about men, especially those with mental health issues, and those marginalized suffering at the hands of police "taser's." Chief De Caire promised a robust training and accountability of the police under his command. What really struck me about this meeting, is that it's clear Hamilton Police is considering the implications of introducing more conducted energy weapons. We had this meeting shortly before the announcement of Chief De Caire's resignation announcement. Truly, I hope Hamilton Police Services next Chief is as open and considerate.


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