In 2021, Halton Police used force against 257 people. More than a third of them were black.
This is despite the fact that the 2016 census listed only 2.8% of the region’s citizens as black.
But the vast overrepresentation of black people in the statistics is because foreigners skew the numbers, says Halton Police Chief Stephen Tanner.
“When we first started looking at this report it was shocking – when you just look at the numbers – but if I remember a number of my statistics classes in college, there are often statistics in statistics,” he told the Halton Police Services Board. Meet March 31.
“Most of these people, when we asked our use of force officials to take a closer look, weren’t from Halton.”
A report describing the police department’s statistics for 2021, only 9% of uses of force against black people involved known residents of Halton.
Tanner said the statistics reflect both “violent criminals who come from other jurisdictions” to the region, as well as the ten times last year that Halton tactical teams were sent out of the region to assist in arrests.
Police are required to track use of force incidents where officers draw or use their firearms or other weapons, as well as uses of physical force that result in injuries requiring medical attention.
In 2019, the province ordered police departments to collect race-related use-of-force statistics.
The Halton Report notes that racial statistics are based on the perception of officers or, where there are inconsistencies, the perception of the majority of officers involved.
Race-related statistics for the 257 use of force incidents last year:
- White – 142 (55%) – no distribution on residency
- Black – 88 people (34%) – 24 residents of Halton, 56 residing outside of Halton, 8 residence unknown
- Asian or East/South East Asian – 11 (4%) – no distribution on residence
- Middle East – 11 (4%) – no distribution on residency
- Latinos – 4 (1%)
- Aboriginal – (less than 1%)
Other details on use of force incidents:
- 26 incidents (12%) involved a person in crisis, including 14 involving a person armed with a bat, pipe, knife or other edged weapon
- In the other 184 events, 30% of individuals were armed. Firearms were involved in 19 cases (10%), while another 36 incidents (20%) involved a bat, pipe, knife or other edged weapon.
- Officers pointed their firearms in 143 incidents (down 15% from 2019)
Last year, Halton police fired their guns 11 times. In 10 of these cases, the officer killed an injured animal. The other was an accidental release at a secure charging station.
“Relatively satisfied” with the statistics, says the chef.
Addressing the overall report, Tanner said he was “relatively satisfied” with the level of the service’s use of force over the past 10 years.
“We don’t have a lot of incidents where there’s a complaint of excessive use of force, which you can see in different jurisdictions,” he added.
Last year saw a 15% drop in use of force incidents compared to 2020, but they have otherwise risen steadily over the past five years.
Tanner attributed this to the “really massive increase in guns” police are seeing on the streets.
He also noted that training police to de-escalate incidents could result in officers drawing weapons but not firing them.
“Our training office is designed to always look at de-escalation because we always want to use the lowest level of force possible to resolve the situation without injuring the person or the officer.”
Tanner said he couldn’t go into specifics, but noted Halton officers recently safely arrested a suspect despite having an actual firearm pointed at them.
“It’s the extreme case of de-escalation,” he said. “They would have been totally justified in taking that person’s life because of the risk presented to them, but they defused, and that’s what the squad is doing, and luckily they’re all fine.”
At the council’s request, the chief promised to improve reporting in the future, including a more accurate breakdown of incidents involving suspects from outside the region and those occurring outside of Halton .
A representative from the provincial Ministry of the Solicitor General said that analysis of use of force data across the province is ongoing.