Police tactical team will 'absolutely' save lives, Charlottetown police chief says

·3 min read
The Priority Tactical Response and Containment Team's goal is to use less lethal options to de-escalate serious situations to improve the outcomes for everybody involved including the officers. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC - image credit)
The Priority Tactical Response and Containment Team's goal is to use less lethal options to de-escalate serious situations to improve the outcomes for everybody involved including the officers. (Wayne Thibodeau/CBC - image credit)

Charlottetown police Chief Brad MacConnell says he's convinced his department's new tactical response team will save lives.

He said the unit's goal is to use less lethal options to de-escalate serious situations to improve the outcomes for everybody involved, including the officers.

The Priority Tactical Response and Containment Team has already been deployed and it's only been in service for a little more than a year.

Earlier this month, CBC News spent the afternoon with the tactical team as it was put through its monthly training at the Prince Edward Island Firefighting School in Miltonvale Park, west of Charlottetown.

"If you look at the incidents, the tragic incidents that happened in Fredericton and Moncton, we've learned the lessons from that," said MacConnell. "That we need to make sure that when our officers are responding to situations that can unfold within seconds that our officers are prepared tactically and equipment-wise to deal with those."

'Less lethal options'

The eight-member, highly trained team responds to calls with elevated risks, including those involving weapons, drugs or high-risk searches.

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC

There are two members on every shift. They stand out from the other officers because their outfit more resembles a military uniform.

Const. Michael Chaloner, a 15-year veteran of Charlottetown Police Services, joined the tactical team when it was formed in the spring of 2021.

Chaloner said officers have more tools now to deal with serious situations than they did before the launch of the tactical team.

"We're able now, through the tools that we have, to use multiple, less lethal options to bring things to a conclusion safely for the person we're dealing with, for ourselves and for the community," said Chaloner.

Chaloner said officers on his team need to always be on high alert, because incidents in nearby provinces prove serious situations can happen in small places like Charlottetown.

'Might ruin the suspect's day'

"You're adrenaline is up because you don't know what's going to unfold but you hopefully, through all the training, and everything that you put in, that you are hopefully going to be able to control the situation enough to have it come out in the way you expect it to. Of course, you always are prepared that it may not but you try to do the best that you can."

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC

During one of the training scenarios earlier this month, a man was held up with weapons inside a house.

The police department used tear gas to get the man out.

But he refused to respond to officers' demands to get on the ground.

MacConnell watched as police officers used a projectile from a 40-millimetre launcher to knock the man to the ground rather than discharging a firearm or a taser.

"Basically, a projectile, that certainly might ruin the suspect's day but it's not certainly going to endanger his life," said MacConnell, adding it would leave a bad bruise on the individual.

'Take the situation under control'

"It enables the officer to take the situation under control, disarm the person and again improve the outcome so that everyone walks away."

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC

Charlottetown police have the only tactical response team based on the Island.

The RCMP's response unit is based in New Brunswick.

MacConnell said his unit is ready and can respond to situations outside the city of Charlottetown, if it's called to do so.

MacConnell said there are checks and balances in place to ensure the tactical unit is used only when necessary.

"None of this happens without certain approvals and we have policies that govern when the team is used," said MacConnell.

"There's accountability on multiple levels and I have every confidence in our team and our leadership in the police department to make sure that they are doing the right thing at the right time."

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
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