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ASIRT dealing with an influx of firearm and use of forces cases involving Calgary Police

(Courtesy: Calgary Police)

It appears a disturbing trend is emerging, ASIRT is dealing with an increase in cases from the Calgary Police.

Officials within the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team crunched the numbers recently and focused on firearm and use of force complaints from the CPS that have required an ASIRT investigation.

Alberta’s police watchdog was only called by Calgary’s former chief of police twice in 2014 over two deaths, the following year it was three times with one death and two serious injury cases. So far this year they’re dealing with the CPS on seven different matters.

To date, ASIRT investigators have looked into three deaths, one serious injury, two discharge of firearms and they’re reviewing a discharge of firearm case.

The province was recently called in to deal with two police involved shootings over a 70 minute time frame.

“There is no doubt in terms of the investigations or investigations that were reviewed by ASIRT that there’s been an increase in two areas over the last three years, one area of increase is the increase in the number of firearms concerns related to police officers use of firearms or storage of firearms and ASIRT getting involved in the investigation or the review of an investigation related to that,” said Mount Royal University Criminologist Doug King. “We’re also seeing over the last three years a significant uptick in use of force investigations or review of investigations that ASIRT has done as it relates to CPS”

King says this raises a lot of questions such as why is this increase taking place over the last couple of years.

It’s a head scratcher for the professor who admits it could be related to the crime rate or with the new chief.
“If I was advising the chief, I would be wanting to ask questions related to … questions about whether or not the chief or his senior officers are making a different decision than say in relation to how the previous chief in that administration made decisions on when to refer something to ASIRT.”

“I would recommend that we don’t quickly go to an explanation that all of this, all of the numbers are outside of the control of the Calgary Police Service,” King added. “Go to the idea that the economy is making things so bad that people are reacting in a more aggressive way to police agencies or those kinds of things, there is questionable evidence in the academic literature that upticks that swing up or down in the economy, impact on crime rates.”

Calgary Police Association President Howard Burns dismissed any idea of a trend and says you have to keep in mind these numbers are relatively small.

“ASIRT themselves, I think more matters are being referred to them as the individual policing agencies become more comfortable in what they’ll investigate and what they won’t,” he said. “You can look and say they’re trending up but you have to look at the actual numbers which are still a small amount of cases, really is that a trend or is that just an anomaly from year to year.”

Burns says homicide rates can also fluctuate from year to year so it’s difficult to say there is a trend calling it more sporadic in nature.

“I don’t think it’s a problem, you have to look at the total number of incidents and they’re very low.”

He added cities grow and populations increase and as that happens, you’re going to have more of these events.

660 NEWS has also reached out to Calgary Police Chief Roger Chaffin for comment.