An RCMP review of an incident where a Taser was used on a Langley single mother who was suffering a manic episode has found the police response was a “measured approach (that) addressed the immediate safety concerns and ultimately allowed for an apprehension without further incident.”
The Langley RCMP detachment was responding to a July 8 Langley Times article about Sabrina Clements, who said she was tasered by police in a YWCA building for single mothers on Fraser Highway while her three-year-old daughter was watching.
The emailed statement, issued by Staff Sgt. Julie Gagnon of the RCMP/GRC National Media Relations office, said Clements was taken into custody under Section 28 of the Mental Health Act, under which a police officer can apprehend someone who is observed to have a mental disorder or is acting in a way which endangers themselves or others.
Threat reduction is primary goal
Clements told the Times she was suffering from a manic episode at the time, repeating phrases, such as “Out, evil” and “blue, blue, pink, pink” and had broken a glass candle holder by the door to her apartment.
“Our primary goals, once we arrived (at the Clements home on June 9), were to assess the situation, reduce any threats and ensure the safety of all involved,” the statement said.
“Efforts were made to de-escalate the situation, respecting that a child was present … officers used multiple tactics including a less lethal deployment of a CEW, which did allow them to gain immediate control and apprehend the individual without further incident.”
The statement went on to say that Clements was then taken for “immediate medical assessment and arrangements were made for the child.”
The Gagnon email said because no criminal charges were laid, the force would normally not comment for privacy reasons, but since Clements has publicly confirmed her involvement the force can, with some limitations, respond.
Clements told the Times she believes the incident could have been resolved without the use of the Taser, which delivers an electrical shock to incapacitate a target.
The RCMP disagree.
“The Langley Detachment Commander has personally reviewed the matter and confirmed that the actions taken by the officers represent a measured approach, addressed the immediate safety concerns and ultimately allowed for an apprehension without further incident,” the RCMP statement said.
“While the individual involved may have questions about the tactics used and their impacts, the primary goals were accomplished and support is available moving forward.”
Split-second decisions must be made
In response to questions from the Times, Gagnon said RCMP officers “may consider the use of a CEW (Conducted Energy Weapon) in situations where a subject is causing bodily harm, or the member believes on reasonable grounds, that the subject will imminently cause bodily harm as determined by the member’s assessment of the totality of the circumstances.”
RCMP officers certified to use the CEW must re-certify annually, Gagnon said.
RCMP figures show a CEW is used by the 28,000-member force an average of once in every 11,700 occurrences.
In roughly two out of every three cases where a CEW is drawn, it isn’t fired because pointing it is a sufficient deterrent, the stats show.
Gagnon said RCMP officers in training are taught a variety of de-escalation tactics aimed at resolving situations involving people in distress.
“Incidents involving police use of force are complex, dynamic and constantly evolving, oftentimes in a highly-charged atmosphere,” Gagnon said.
“Police officers must make split-second decisions when it comes to managing an incident.”