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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Toronto police used Tasers 367 times in 2008: statistics

March 19, 2009
CBC News

Toronto police fired Tasers 367 times to subdue people in 2008, more than double the number of times the stun gun was used by frontline officers in 2006, according to the force's statistics.

The statistics, revealed by Toronto police Chief Bill Blair this week in an annual report to the Police Services Board, also show that 34 per cent of last year's 329 different incidents in which Tasers were used involved people officers believed to be emotionally disturbed.

The figure rises to 41 per cent when combined with subjects believed to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Blair's report said.

The figure leaves advocates of the mentally ill worried that the use of the stun guns, which use electro-shock to temporarily incapacitate a potential assailant, is still too high.

Linda Carey, who works with Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office, an Ontario mental health advocacy group, said she wonders if police are being too quick to draw on their Tasers.

"If you looked at it and you contained the situation, in other words where you had the person in an area where they not going to hurt another person, or harm themselves, things might actually calm down," Carey told CBC News.

In the report, Blair said officers are using "good judgment under difficult circumstances and making appropriate decisions to use the minimum force necessary" when it comes to using Tasers.

He said that in 65 per cent of the cases, officers "perceived the subject behaviour as assaultive." In some of the other cases, Blair said, the person struck with a Taser "was likely to cause serious bodily harm or death."

Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash told CBC News officers must act quickly to prevent harm to themselves, the subjects and the public.

"It would be silly, for example, to suggest that if somebody is threatening you with a knife, that you were to question them to find out or not they were emotionally disturbed," he said.

The annual report is part of the agenda for the next Police Services Board meeting to be held later this month.

1 comment:

Excited-Delirium.com said...

Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash is obviously addressing the smallest end of the issue. How many of those 367 cases involved a real-world serious threat to the police? In the years before tasers became common, would the sum of police shootings and police line-of-duty deaths added up to 367? Or even 10?

If someone is threatening you with a knife then you cover them with a gun. Pull up a chair, call for back-up. If they advance, feel free to plug them.

But such incidents are rare in taser deployments. The vast majority of taser incidents are for compliance. Or as on the spot punishment.

At least one study has shown that tasers DO NOT protect police (no change to officer injury rates). And the raw data for police deaths in Canada shows a step upward coincident with increased reliance on tasers (as opposed to old-school peaceful de-escalation techniques).

And this number is CLEAR CUT evidence that my long-standing claim that tasers are used ABOUT 100 TIMES as often as police use their guns to kill is TRUE.

That's a numerical fact that makes Pugash's claims of officer safety very doubtful. He's using the 1% to try to justify the 100% and it doesn't wash.

These pro-taser forces need to make up some better arguments (if they can).