The Hamilton Police “use of force” supervisor has wrapped up his testimony at a coroner’s inquest examining the death of Steve Mesic by expressing “genuine sorrow” for everyone involved.
Sergaent John Alspergas covered a lot of ground during his afternoon on the witness stand.
He presented figures showing that police use force in less than 1% of interactions with the public, while adding that officers are required to re-certify once a year.
Specific to emotionally disturbed persons, he cited 27 “use of force” incidents last year, amongst 22 hundred people who were apprehended under the mental health act.
Speaking directly to last June’s shooting death of Steve Mesic, Alspergas says he found no concerns based on the reports of the two officers who shot and killed the 45 year old, or during his own debriefing of Constables Kevin Farrell and Michael McLellan.
Despite expressing “genuine sorrow”, Alsperger stressed there was “nothing else they could do”.
Looking ahead to possible recommendations from the coroner’s jury, the Sergaent agreed that it would be very helpful for Hamilton officers to receive training in mental health from survivors in order to get a “really true understanding” of what they are going through.
Alspergas is less supportive of lapel cameras, which he says offer “one perspective” and a potentially “distorted view”.
He stresses that Tasers would not have been effective in the Mesic case since you must be close to the subject and have a “good connection” for the “probes”, adding that “you don’t bring a taser to a baseball bat, shovel or knife fight”.
The inquest wrapped for the day on Thursday with a review of the chronology of police dispatch calls. The review suggests that those calls failed to convey the suicidal tones after Mesic was seen walking in traffic on the LINC prior to the shooting.
One final witness, a representative for an organization which advocates on behalf of survivors of mental illness, will testify Friday at the coroner’s inquest.
Lawyers representing all parties will then be given the weekend before presenting their final submissions on Monday, after which jurors will be asked to make recommendations that would prevent any future deaths under similar circumstances.