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Thursday, April 17, 2008

EDITORIAL: Take that for not paying

April 17, 2008
Toronto Star

The TTC should think twice before following Vancouver's lead by arming its transit police with Tasers.

Since the beginning of last year, Vancouver's transit police have used their Tasers 10 times, including several times against passengers who had tried to avoid paying, according to recently released documents.

This is just the latest evidence that police forces across the country are prone to "usage creep" when it comes to Tasers. The high-voltage stun guns have been championed as a less-than-lethal way to defuse potentially violent confrontations.

But zapping someone for failing to buy a transit ticket? Unless the cornered free rider posed an imminent safety threat to officers or passengers, this is a shockingly heavy-handed response to a minor crime.

Following the highly publicized death last year of a Polish immigrant at Vancouver's airport shortly after he was jolted by a Taser, we have grown wary of pitches for the expanded use of this weapon. The Vancouver report is one more reminder that further reflection and stronger safeguards are needed before any move is made to distribute Tasers to more and more police officers.

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