Columbia Police Department's use of firearms and Tasers decreases

Tuesday, March 1, 2011 | 1:32 p.m. CST; updated 12:17 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 19, 2011

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Police Department's 2010 year-end report shows a drop in firearm and Taser use.

Officers used their firearms in 37 instances last year compared with 46 in 2009, according to a report conducted by the department's Internal Affairs Unit. Officers used Tasers on 39 separate occasions last year compared with 59 in 2009.

Use of force categories

The use of force categories were expanded from six to 17:

  • Balance displacement
  • Drawing/exhibiting firearms
  • Handcuffing (without resulting in formal arrest)
  • Impact weapon (baton)
  • Impact weapon (other)
  • Joint manipulation
  • Other physical force
  • Pepper spray
  • Pressure-point techniques
  • Strikes
  • Taser usage
  • Firearms usage
  • Canine apprehension
  • Canine bite
  • Chemical gas
  • Kinetic-energy impact device
  • Horse action/movement

Officers' use of pepper spray also dropped from 85 instances in 2009 to 45 in 2010.

The department received 96 formal external complaints last year, compared with 120 in 2009.

On April 1, 2010, the department changed the way it categorized a reportable use of force. 

Police Chief Ken Burton decided the department would require reporting of any force used to overcome resistance, department spokeswoman Sgt. Jill Wieneke said.

Wieneke said the change was made "to allow us to better track how or why officers are using all types of force, even low levels, and to identify any potential issues related to the use of force that we can address via training and/or policy."

Before, the six use-of-force categories were baton use, firearm use, pepper spray use, strikes, Taser use and other uses of force. These six categories were expanded to 17.

"The categories were decided on based on the types of force most commonly used by officers and the tools officers have available to them," Wieneke said.

The expanded categories have resulted in higher reports of use of force last year, with 616 occasions compared with 248 in 2009.

This total does not include motor vehicle accidents or pursuits in 2009, which were included in mandatory reviews completed by officers. There were 39 motor vehicle accidents and 17 pursuits in 2009. Information on these two categories, which are not uses of force, was not available for 2010.

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Derrick Fogle March 1, 2011 | 5:15 p.m.

I'm OK with that. One additional figure that would be very helpful would be the total number of contacts the police have had during these years. I don't think that's been going down, has it?

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