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Friday, July 04, 2008

Toronto Transit Commission constables remain unarmed

July 4, 2008
BY EVAN FRENCH, The Etobicoke Guardian

The TTC's decision not to arm their special constables with Tasers or guns was not influenced by the Taser-related death of a man at Vancouver airport last year, said TTC spokesman Brad Ross. He said the decision was made this week, after an outside research firm carried out a study on the possibility of arming the peace officers, costing the city $100,000.

"It's a question of being sensitive to the issue of Tasers right now," said Ross. "We have a risk assessment going on ensuring the special constables have all the tools and training so they can do their job in a safe manner."

Rachel Poku, 22, a student at Humber College, said she feels safe when she rides the rocket to and from school every day but is concerned for the safety of the special constables. "For their safety, I think they should (be armed)," she said while waiting at a bus stop on Humber College Boulevard. "They need the equipment to protect themselves when they're confronting people."

The 95 special constables, in addition to their black pants and blue shirts, are currently equipped with batons, pepper spray and handcuffs, said Ross. "People think they're just security guards but that's not true," he said. "They're very highly trained." Ross confirmed several of the special constables are former police officers. "They're uniformed as well as plainclothes," he said. "When they're on the TTC, they have basically the same powers as police officers."

Although Tasers and pistols won't be filling TTC holsters, one tool which has been approved is the video camera. Ross said all TTC vehicles and stations will be equipped with CCTV surveillance cameras by August of next year. He said the cameras will provide police with evidence and help to solve crimes committed on TTC property.

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