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Should cops carry Tasers? Public to weigh in at Toronto police board meeting

Should cops carry Tasers? Public to weigh in at Toronto police board meeting
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The police are proposing expanded deployment of Tasers in response to recommendations from both the community and Coroner’s inquest into the shooting death of Andrew Loku.

By Vjosa IsaiStaff Reporter

Fri., Oct. 6, 2017

Toronto Police are exploring ways to use less-lethal force and will appear before the Toronto Police Board to discuss the use of Tasers, and other new tools, such as shields, for frontline officers.

The police are proposing the changes in response to recommendations from both the community and the Coroner’s inquest into the shooting death of Andrew Loku.

In the Loku inquest and 10 others between 2005 and 2017, the Coroner has recommended full deployment of Tasers, or Conducted Energy Weapons (CEWs), to all front-line officers, according to a discussion paper by Toronto Police.

“The service believes that through proper policy, procedures, training, and accountability the CEW is an appropriate use of force option that can help maintain public and officer safety,” it says.

The document , released on Friday, ahead of the Oct. 18 police board meeting, notes that Tasers have been used more that 2,800 times since 2007. The public is invited to give its views.

Police say that “struggling or fighting with an officer when the officer used only empty-hand techniques” in that same timeframe resulted in 310 injuries serious enough for the SIU to invoke its mandate, and four deaths.

Ex-police board member Hamlin Grange said he believes that police’s emphasis on deploying more tools should be shifted towards de-escalation and negotiation tactics.

“We see so many situations here, where individuals have been harmed or even killed, where what’s coming into question is police discretion,” he said.

Hamlin formerly co-chaired the board’s , a group of experts and hospital leaders who independently evaluated how the force and its board deals with mentally ill people.

When investigating, more than six months ago, police use of de-escalation tactics in these circumstances, the committee was not convinced that police were adequately tracking how much de-escalation and negotiation were used to begin with, Hamlin said.

“What gets measured, gets managed,” he said.

“If you don’t track this to see if it’s effective, then you ask for another weapon: ‘Give us Tasers! Give us shields!’ You’re not tracking the very effective tool that you claim is supposed to do no harm.”

Shields are another tool that police are considering for front-line officers, but the police discussion paper notes their limitations.

“Without adequate back-up in attendance, using a shield is a risky tactic, because carrying a shield makes it difficult for officers to access their handcuffs or other force options,” it says.

Toronto Police are not aware of any other police service in the country using shields on the front-line, and will discuss a potential pilot project at the meeting.
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