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Calgary Police Association president finds use of force review 'disconcerting'

CPA president Les Kaminski said he questions if this is the best way to spend the CPS budget and why the chief 'abdicated' his responsibilities to a judge

Calgary Police Association president, Les Kaminski.

File Photo

Calgary Police Association president, Les Kaminski.

The Calgary Police Association (CPA) president said the decision by the Calgary Police Service’s chief to initiate an independent use-of-force review is “disconcerting.” 

On Wednesday, Chief Roger Chaffin announced that the review, headed by retired Chief Justice Neil Wittmann, will look at policies, procedures, practices, training, equipment and the overall culture within CPS in relation to the use of lethal force in conducting police work.  

In 2016, there were 10 police involved shootings in Calgary, five of which were fatal. 

The review will last approximately one year and cost around $500,000.

In a letter to CPA members obtained by Metro, president Les Kaminski said he found the chief's decision to conduct the review disconcerting considering he’d ordered a hiring freeze on all support staffing levels, and that some city council members have suggested that a pay freeze and “possible claw-backs are imminent.

“The Association is not blind to the fact that the chief has found the budget to move his project forward, regardless that there have been zero use of deadly force incidents in 2017,”  the letter read.

Kaminski wrote that it leads him to question if this is the best use of the force’s limited budget. 

He further expressed concern over the chief’s decision to “abdicate” his responsibilities as chief to a judge “in the face of political pressure.” 

Kaminski said while he understands the goal is to make recommendations that could lead to zero fatalities in future police-involved incidents, the CPA understands that police work is “inherently dangerous.” 

“We know that no police officer comes to work with the goal of using deadly force,” he said.

“The reality is that we have a sworn duty to protect society, and on occasion violent criminals will take actions which dictate that our members must make these courageous, critical decisions.” 

Kaminski's letter to CPA members.

Kaminski's letter to CPA members.

Kaminski said when that time comes the CPA will support its members. 

Calgary Police Commission chair, Brian Thiessen responded to Kaminski's letter saying he was "dissapointed" by his statement.

"The safety of CPS members, the public and the accused is of fundamental importance to the citizens of Calgary, and therefore to the commission, as is maintaing the trust between police and the community they serve."said Thiessen.

Thiessen said he also believes it's inappropriate and inaccurate to connect the budget for this reveiw to salary and staffing levels. 

"We cannot, and should not, put a price tag on officer and public safety," he said. 

In an interview with Metro on Thursday, Kaminski said although he believes 2016 was an anomaly, he wants to make it clear that he's not against doing a review, but said he believes CPS has people in-house who could—and have already— made recommendations for improval. 

"We are all for a review, we're 100 per cent in favour, but of an ongoing reveiw," he said. "We have experts within the service who have been making suggestions for a long period of time and are passed from committee to committee. We have people within the service who can do the exact same job."

In terms of the cost of the review, Kaminski said he knows CPS is struggling to keep resources available for officers on the streets.

"There are frozen staffing levels in some of the most important positions like record taking. If those staffing levels fall, our productivity and ability to police appropriatly fall as well," he said. 

Kaminski also said he believes the CPA, who represents more than 2,000 CPS members, should have been consulted about this review. 

Metro reached out directly to the Calgary Police Service for comment. They said they will not be commenting on the letter and stand by what they said Wednesday. 

Full statement from Brian Thiessen.

Full statement from Brian Thiessen.

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