James Hanna was kind to animals and children. He loved hugs and loved to travel.
His family say he was excited about his future but was robbed by a stray bullet fired from an Edmonton police officer’s gun. The 59-year-old was in his basement suite watching TV when he was killed in February.
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Police said officers were pursuing a robbery suspect on foot when they fired. This man, a 36-year-old man with a fake gun, was also killed.
Hanna’s relatives said they wanted answers about how he was killed in his own home and called for a closer look at police training, particularly around firearms . The Alberta Police Watchdog is investigating the case.
“It’s insane,” said Susan Bandola, her sister.
A tally compiled by The Canadian Press revealed that police shot and killed 87 people in Canada between January 1 and November 30 – 46 fatally. It was based on information available from police, independent investigative units and reports from The Canadian Press.
Police shooting on Christmas Day in Strathmore, Alberta.
This represents an increase of almost 25% from 2021, when officers shot 70 people and 37 were killed. Sixty people were shot in 2020 and 36 of them were killed.
Temitope Oriola, professor of criminology and associate dean at the University of Alberta, said it was concerning to see the number of fatal encounters with police increasing. Several variables are contributing to the increase, he said, including inadequate training, an overreliance on force and a lack of accountability.
“We basically have the perfect storm, fertile ground for these kinds of incidents.”
The resulting snapshot shows annual increases in the number of officers firing their guns every year since 2020, when global movements called for more police accountability and transparency.
There have been at least five shootings this month that were not included in the tally, including that of the man who police say shot dead six people in a Toronto-area condo and a at a gas station east of Calgary on Christmas morning.
Young men continue to make up the vast majority of those shot by police.
Race was identified in 23 cases. Of these, more than 40% involved Indigenous people, while about a quarter were other people of color.
The first calls from the police were mostly about possession of weapons, assault or outstanding warrants. In almost 80% of shootings, the person had a weapon. In 62% of these cases, it was a firearm.
Many of those shot are not hardened, violent criminals, but people in the throes of a mental health or addiction crisis, said Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto who studies policing.
Allan Andkilde was “insane” and had contemplated suicide in August when he was shot and killed by police, according to a report by the Special Investigations Unit, Ontario’s civilian police watchdog. The 70-year-old called 911 himself before walking down a street to brandish a machete he had just bought.
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Responding officers used a stun gun to try to arrest Andkilde and told him to drop his gun, but he continued to walk towards them and was shot. The police watchdog said earlier this month there were no reasonable grounds to bring criminal charges against the officer in the case.
Three shootings also began as wellness checks.
The Waterloo Regional Police Service received a wellness check call in April which resulted in a 22-year-old man being shot and injured. A report from the Special Investigations Unit said officers spoke to the man’s sister, who explained he was having a psychotic episode. She noted that her brother was not violent and had no weapons.
Officers attempted to take the man to hospital, but the report said he was in crisis.
At one point, police thought they saw a gun in the man’s pocket. The situation escalated and the police fired their weapons, hitting him in the chest and in the hand. It turned out to be a fake gun. The Ontario police watchdog said in a report that there were no grounds to lay criminal charges against the subject officer.
Owusu-Bempah said the public needs to better understand how police interact with civilians and use force. This can only be achieved with good data, he said.
“Why don’t we still have a national database? asked Owusu-Bempah.
“They are state agents acting on behalf of the state who enforce the laws of the state. They are empowered by the state to take lives and use force.
In 2022, the RCMP was involved in 35 shootings, compared to 26 in 2021 and 15 the year before.
British Columbia recorded the most shootings with 23, an increase from 13 in 2021 and five in 2020. The Vancouver Police Department was involved in six of the shootings this year.
Ontario followed with 22 shootings and Alberta with 15, two slight decreases from the previous year.
The SIU is investigating after a man was killed and another injured in a police shooting in Markham, Ontario.
Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and the Yukon have all seen an increase in the number of people killed by police this year.
Police shootings remain rare in Canada compared to other countries, including the United States. But criminology experts say the rise in numbers is cause for concern.
“Excessive use of force makes policing more dangerous,” Oriola said.
Four officers have been killed this year while responding to situations that resulted in a police shootout. const. Shaelyn Yang was killed in British Columbia, Const. Andrew Hong was killed in Toronto, along with Const. Morgan Russell and Const. Devon Northrup, who were killed in Innisfil, Ontario.
Oriola said that in some cases officers have to use force.
“I strongly believe that officers have the right to safely return to their families at the end of their shift,” Oriola said.
“Equally, civilians have the right not to have excessive force applied to them. »