On Wednesday, July 18, 2018, officers from the Dryden Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) tasered a 33-year-old man, who was refusing medical treatment, at a local health centre. According to initial police reports, the man was uncooperative with medical staff and had attempted to “escape” the health centre, at which point he became “combative with officers on the scene”. No officer or member of the public – except the man being tasered – was injured during the encounter. The man was then restrained and provided apparently compelled treatment. No charges were laid against the man.
In Ontario, the authority to detain persons, for the purpose of compelled care and treatment, is an extraordinary power that is subject to exacting legal limits. Police reports to date offer no indication that the legal requirements to provide compelled treatment were met in this case.
At present, Ontario’s Use of Force Model does not offer guidance to police officers when they encounter individuals who may be experiencing a medical crisis and, by virtue of their medical condition, may not appear co-operative. However, medical crisis interventions must be the preferred approach for police to de-escalate such encounters.
Conducted energy weapons (“CEWs”), or tasers, should not be used unless there is an imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm to a police officer or member of the public – a standard not yet adopted by the majority of police services in Ontario or Canada. CEWs are not harmless weapons. They are intensely painful and can potentially lead to serious, even lethal, injuries. Moreover, the medical effects of CEWs are still largely unknown. As Justice Iacobucci observed in his landmark report to the Toronto Police Services, “the paucity of reliable data regarding the effects of CEWs on individuals with medical conditions, people in crisis and subjects with prescription medications, illegal drugs or alcohol in their system makes it difficult for police to predict whether a given subject in a real-life interaction will suffer serious consequences from exposure to a CEW charge.”
In April of this year, Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services promised a new framework, to be released this summer, to enhance training for police officers and to ensure de-escalation techniques are central to any police response, particularly when police are responding to individuals in crisis. These reforms are long overdue.
Read the OPP News Release here:
(DRYDEN, ON) – On Wednesday, July 18, 2018 at approximately 12:13 p.m. officers from the Dryden Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) conducted a traffic stop on Earl Avenue in Dryden. There were two occupants in the vehicle and the 33-year-old male passenger from Saskatchewan appeared to be in medical distress. Emergency Medical Services attended and transported the male for medical treatment.
Medical staff were treating the uncooperative male at the Dryden Regional Health Centre when he attempted to escape. During the escape attempt, the male became combative with officers on scene. Officers with Dryden OPP and Dryden Police Service deployed their Conductive Energy Weapons (CEW’s) in efforts to control him. Medical staff assisted, and the male was successfully restrained and he was able to receive needed treatment.
There were no injuries and no charges were laid.
Staff Sergeant Ed Chwastyk
Dryden Detachment Commander
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