No need for public concern after 2 police shootings in 4 days, Edmonton police chief says

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No need for public concern after 2 police shootings in 4 days, Edmonton police chief says

The public has no need to be concerned after two Edmonton police shootings in the city in less than a week, police Chief Rod Knecht said Thursday.

"This is what I would call highly unusual," Knecht said after a police commission meeting Thursday.

"I haven't seen anything of that nature going back as far as 2001."

On March 9, an Edmonton police officer shot and killed 55-year-old Vitaly Savin after a confrontation in the city's southwest following a traffic stop.

Four days later, another Edmonton police officer shot and seriously wounded 36-year-old Glenn Justin Ironchild after he was seen waving a rifle at bystanders in a busy intersection in the city's northeast.

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The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team is investigating both shootings.

No police shootings in 2016

A new report on the control tactics used by the police last year showed that Edmonton police didn't discharge their firearms once in 2016.The number of incidents where firearms were pointed at a suspect decreased by 42.5 per cent compared to 2015.

Knecht said there is no pattern to police use of firearms.

"It's very inconsistent," he said. "If you marked it on a graph, it would be up and down and up and down."

But he said one pattern police are seeing is that there are more firearms in the city.

"When you're encountered with force, many times you're having to engage force as a police officer," he said. "So you see us going to far more weapons complaints, particularly guns, and that's a challenge for us."

Taser use way up

The report on control tactics did show a 92-per-cent increase in the number of stuns delivered by police using a conducted energy weapon, also known as a Taser.

Knecht said police are encouraged to use Tasers when a situation escalates, rather than drawing their guns.

"That's a less lethal, less intrusive, and less, I guess, fatal consequences by using that," he said. "So it's good that number's up and our shooting numbers … our engaging of firearms is down."

Knecht said even though Edmonton's population is increasing, the use of force overall by police is decreasing.

"I think our members are getting more educated, are using more verbal judo or more engaging," he said.

"We've got a lot of mental health and mental illness training over the last year … and I think that is sort of changed our dynamic when we're approaching these more volatile situations."