Open Letter to: Marco Mendicino, Public Safety Minister, Government of Canada
Re: Use of Neck Restraints by the RCMP/Police in Canada
I have yet again reviewed a news article in which, you through the direction of the PMO, are seeking to require the RCMP to cease the use of carotid control techniques/neck restraints by its members.
During my tenure with the RCMP, I was posted to one of the smallest detachments in Canada to the largest. Throughout my 33 years of service, I was on the ‘front line’ assisting Canadians every day (with only five years in an administrative role). As such, I was exposed on a continuing basis to the challenges my colleagues continue to face today.
It appears as though you and the PMO want to require the cessation of neck restraint as policy for the RCMP. In lieu there of, potential options such as tear gas or bean bag guns have been suggested.
Simply put, I had to misfortune of having to goes “hands-on” with clients more times that I care to remember. It goes without saying that on rare occasions, I had to resort to a neck restraint to control the situation. In short, it was my life that was potentially at jeopardy.
While not a preferred course of action, at least this option was open to me (and others in the RCMP).
In a Utopian world, physical altercations wouldn’t exist. However, utopia doesn’t exist. Police officers deal with the real world everyday.
There are times at which, no matter how much a peace officer tries to mitigate a scene, there comes a point when altercations will and do occur. Period. While neck restraints are at the end of the Use of Force Continuum (just prior to the use of deadly force), it is still a very valuable tool and to demand its removal is inconceivable.
Let’s look at a couple of the options that have been suggested.
• Tear gas:
– that requires another weapon to be purchased
– another weapon for every frontline peace officer to be trained on
– another weapon that must be carried by every peace officer
(each of whom are already packing approximately 35 lbs. of added gear)
– a weapon that requires distance to the intended suspect
– a weapon that can be greatly affected by wind which in turn can direct the gas to the police officer(s) or nearby civilians
– requires the subject be decontaminated after it is deployed
It simply is not a feasible and practical option for available for deployment.
• Bean bag gun:
This option is typically reserved for the use by Emergency Response personnel. Many of the points I’ve alluded to above are triggered:
– purchase of the device
– every police officer would have to be trained and equipped
– distance from the suspect/offender is needed to deploy the device
– added weight to what is already being carried
You can’t have either of these two weapons (or other alternatives) merely in a police vehicle. They have to be on the police officer’s person. You cannot simply retreat to your car in the midst of an altercation. You have to be equipped, not unlike having a service pistol at your side.
You may ask, ‘why does every officer need to have this option ?’ The answer to that is frankly basic and common sense.
Whether in a small town environment or in a major city centre, it takes time for ‘back-up’ to arrive. Further, if only a select number of members are trained, one of them would need to be contacted and directed to the scene.
Time is an issue. Time in an altercation is not in your favour. It’s an enemy unto itself as a altercation can be won or lost in seconds.
If you are suggesting a tool to replace the use of the carotid control, you simply cannot, cannot fail to provide this device(s) to every member. It has to be immediately available to them. Period.
Let’s look at the concept of time by way of a couple of examples. While in rural Canada, often times I was either working by myself or at such a distance from any other members working that it would have taken up to 45 minutes to an hour for assistance to arrive.
Even in a city setting, a member can be engaged in an altercation in seconds. I know, I’ve been there many, many times. These interactions can occur so quickly you don’t have the ability to radio for assistance. It happens that fast. Again, I speak from experience.
Speaking of experience, I have taken the time to review your educational history. While schooled in law, it appears as though neither you (nor the PMO) have any practical experience in policing. None…
• Neck restraints
As eluded to, I’ve had to go “hands-on” so many times, I simply can’t remember. It would easily be in the hundreds of time during my 28 years on the frontline. Again, neck restraints were and continue to be of a last resort. But an option none-the-less.
– it can be quickly and very effectively applied
– no waiting to other member(s) to arrive to assist in the apprehension
– no lasting effects (that I am aware of)
– once applied, the individual is rendered incapable of physical assault and can be easily restrained/handcuffed
– subject, if rendered unconscious, is awake and functional again in seconds to a couple of minutes
Cons: frankly, I can’t think of any… other than public perception. That can be addressed by explaining the event(s), the rationale and immediacy of the occurrence.
I am a practitioner of Jujitsu and have literally been choked unconscious on an untold number of occasions. The result? I’ve continued with the training session(s) without any ill effects. None effects whatsoever.
• Pepper spray:
Let’s use an example of another use of force tool currently in use. Pepper spray has a lasting effect. The person who has been sprayed needs to be decontaminated and it takes time for the bite in the eyes and lungs to dissipate. Not so with a neck restraint.
How do I know? As part of our training, I was exposed to tear gas and pepper spray. They were not pleasant!
What if your policy is adopted?
Please keep in mind that currently the use of a carotid control technique on the RCMP Use of Force Continuum is just prior to the use of deadly force. Think about that for a minute.
Now, if you mandate this policy, you are removing an option that is safe and effective in controlling an individual. If removed, what alternative is left? Very possibly, the use of deadly force.
This is policy by political decree.
I certainly understand the need for political action and intervention at times. That being said, you need to have some understanding of the consequences of your policy making and the need listen to and take direction/advice from the experts in the field, a field of which you have no experience.
Failing to do so is akin to having a furniture salesman dictating how to operate a nuclear power plant, or worse.
Frankly speaking, I realise that this letter will be ignored on its face. However, to continue to sit back and do nothing, and watch the degradation of a profession by uninformed and politically driven authorities, is no longer tolerable to me.
Roger Morrow, Sgt. Ret’d, Langley
RCMPolice Service History:
Depot Division for RCMP Training 1980-1981
Fort Chipewyan, Alta.
Sylvan Lake, Alta.
Red Deer City Detachment, Alta.
United Nations Peacekeeper – former Yugoslavia during its civil war
Red Deer City Detachment, Alta.
Awards and honours:
UN Service medals (two)
Queen’s Jubilee medal
RCMP Long Service medal with Silver Clasp
B.C. Bravery medal
Alberta Emergency Services medals (two)
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