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Calgary police chief wants to re-examine policy on fleeing vehicles

Shootings involving moving vehicles are particularly worrisome for Chief Chaffin

Chief Roger Chaffin said police need to work on getting people out of vehicles and arresting them safely.

Elizabeth Cameron / For Metro

Chief Roger Chaffin said police need to work on getting people out of vehicles and arresting them safely.

In the last year there have been 10 Calgary police officer-involved shootings, half of which have involved officers shooting at moving vehicles.

Calgary’s chief of police, Roger Chaffin, said Tuesday at the monthly Calgary Police Commission meeting that this trend has him “very concerned.”

Chaffin said one thing he needs to make clear is that in saying anything about these shootings he is speaking in general terms.

“It’s always positioned wrong as if I’m concerned about one particular shooting or another— and I’m not,” he said.

Chaffin said generally speaking, officers are getting put in positions that are high risk.

“They’re quite simply running on borrowed time and an officer is going to be seriously injured in one of these situations,” he said.

And, Chaffin said he doesn’t want to see this, and realizes something needs to change.

The chief said he’s recently looked at policies of other police agencies across North America who have much stronger stances on shooting at vehicles, especially moving ones. In most cases, you just don’t do it, he said.

“We need to work on getting people out of the cars and arresting them safely,” he told the commission.

Chaffin said a few ways the service will look at making these changes are through policy adjustment, a change in leadership tactics and an independent review—something he said he spoke with the justice minister Katheleen Ganley about earlier this week.

“I want to make sure that our training, our tactics, our policy and our leadership is put in a position to be successful and safe,” he said.

All five of the shootings involving vehicles began because officers were pursuing stolen vehicles, and Chaffin says he doesn’t want to see the public or officers put themselves in harm’s way just to recover stolen property.

“That’s the change I want to see immediately,” he said.

The chief said despite the increasing number of police involved shootings, these events represent a miniscule fraction of the tens of thousands of similar calls they attend every year—that end peacefully.

“We’re managing chaos,” he said. “The majority of the time we do exhaust every option tactically to find a peaceful resolution.”

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