Professor Owusu-Bempah comments on police use-of-force during wellness checks – National Post article

Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah’s comments appeared in an article in the National Post titled “Police shootings in 2020: The effect on officers and those they are sworn to protect.” The article reviews the statistics of police shootings in Canada in 2020, comparing patterns among the 55 cases of this year and across some year-to-year trends. Professor Owusu-Bempah commented on how police handle wellness checks and calls involving people suffering from mental illness, noting his concern for how readily police resort to use-of-force in these situations. He said that he’d like to see police show more restraint when involved in wellness checks and mental health crises, commenting that just the presence of police increases the risk for these encounters to escalate towards violence. Professor Owusu-Bempah was among several researchers studying policing and community members impacted by police violence whose comments were included in the article.

Professor Owusu-Bempah is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, with teaching responsibilities at the U of T Mississauga campus. He frequently provides commentary to public and governmental agencies, community organizations, and media outlets on topics related to his research focus: the intersection of race, policing and justice.

We’ve included an excerpt of the article below. To read the full National Post article, click here.

Police shootings in 2020: The effect on officers and those they are sworn to protect

Author of the article:
The Canadian Press
Kelly Geraldine Malone, Meredith Omstead and Liam Casey
Publishing date:
Dec 21, 2020  •  Last Updated 16 days ago  •  7 minute read

A photo and an urn sit on Christie Zebrasky’s kitchen table. Each time the Winnipeg woman goes to eat, she imagines her daughter’s face and wonders whether she’ll ever know what happened in the moments before 16-year-old Eishia Hudson was shot and killed by police.

“I can feel her presence here daily. She is not leaving Mom,” Zebrasky says with a deep sigh.

Hudson is one of 55 people who were shot by police in Canada between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30. Of those, 34 were killed.

The Canadian Press tracked each shooting using information from police, independent investigative units and independent reporting. It is a snapshot of police shootings in a year in which global movements have called for more accountability and transparency.

The vast majority of people shot by police were young men. When race could be identified, 48 per cent of people shot were Indigenous and 19 per cent were Black.

Relatives who spoke publicly about those who were shot said there were issues with mental health and addictions. Of the nine shootings that started as wellness checks, all were fatal and four were people of colour.

In five of those cases, police first used a non-lethal-weapon such as a Taser. Six of the shootings took place in the person’s home.

Wellness checks generally involve officers being dispatched to check on someone whose mental health or well-being is a concern. Critics have called for police to change how officers respond to these calls following multiple high-profile deaths in 2020.

Read the full article here