Ontario to expand police access to Tasers

Sgt. Randy Batson of the Brantford Police. Photo by Cody Hoffman.
Sgt. Randy Batson of the Brantford Police. Photo by Cody Hoffman.

The government of Ontario has announced that it will allow more frontline officers to carry conducted energy weapons (CEWs), more commonly known as Tasers.

This decision comes after years of incident reviews with specific regard to the usefulness of CEWs in policing situations.

Currently, the province restricts the use of CEWs to designated positions and policing teams such as tactical units, containment teams, and frontline supervisors.

The announcement made by Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Service on August 27

Local policing services will then be able to decide which of their officers should be carrying a CEW.

“This decision was made after carefully considering both peer-reviewed medical research and coroners’ inquest findings,” said Meilleur. “Our police officers are trained to use de-escalation first whenever possible, but when that approach does not work, we need to equip our officers with another tool. Expanded conducted energy weapon deployment will help protect Ontarians and keep our communities safe.”

“Tasers are an intermediate force option,” said Insp. Scott Easto of the Brantford Police Service. “They are used against people who are assaultive … much like batons.”

The government of Ontario is introduction changes that they hope will:

•Provide direction and guidance as to when a CEW would be deemed to be appropriate;

• Increase reporting provisions (i.e., CEW use will be reported in an open and transparent manner, including when a CEW is displayed

with the intention to achieve behaviour compliance);

•Enhance training, including scenario-based training and training for interactions with people with mental health issues, to assist in ensuring the safe, appropriate and effective use of CEWs; and

•Expect that police services should engage local communities prior to deciding to expand CEW deployment in their jurisdiction.

Ontario had first authorized the use of CEWs in 2002. At that point, law enforcement relied on the manufacturer to provide accurate training.

In March 2010, Ontario introduced new guidelines, which standardized the training that officers obtained when using CEWs. The guidelines also included medical considerations, equipment control and report as a result of recommendations from the provincial Policing Standards Advisory Committee.

According to a press release from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, “Multiple independent sources have concluded that CEWs are less likely to cause significant injuries than other use-of-force options and that the overall risk of serious injury associated with CEW use is low.”

All provinces but Quebec now allow frontline officers to carry CEWs.

Sammy Yatim: A case for more CEWs

The announcement of more officers carrying CEWs comes just weeks after the death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim.

Yatim was killed on July 27 after being shot by Constable James Forcillo eight times.

Much speculation has arisen after his death surrounding the question if a more appropriate use of force, CEWs specifically, would have resulted in a much different situation.

Yatim was on a TTC streetcar wielding a 3-inch knife when he was shot.

Iole Pasquale: A case for less CEWs

On Wednesday of last week, 80-year-old Iole Pasquale was Tasered by Peel Regional Police.

The Special Investigation’s Unit is currently investigating the situation but there has been no official report regarding why she was Tasered.

According to The Toronto Star, Angela, Pasquale’s daughter, reported that her mother suffers from dementia and was carrying a bread knife while walking along a street when police found her.

“She’s 80. She’s a frail old woman and now her life has changed forever,” said Angela. “Some compassion and understanding would have been more appropriate.”

This incident has brought about much more speculation about the potential climb in CEW misuse if they are more commonplace.

Once Tasered, Pasquale fell and broke her hip. She is now recovering at Credit Valley Hospital.

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