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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Toronto Police detail taser use

March 1, 2011
Tom Godfrey, Toronto Sun

Toronto Police used their Tasers 236 times last year, during which the device was fired 130 times by officers against suspects in life-threatening situations, says Chief Bill Blair.

The chief said his officers relied on Tasers as a threat 106 times — 45% of the total number times they were used.

Blair’s report — to be presented to the police services board on Thursday — said 545 Taser X-26s were issued in 2010 to supervisors of the Emergency Task Force and other high-risk units, such as the hold-up and drug squads.

“The device is used strictly to gain control of a subject who is at risk of causing harm,” Blair said in a submission that was released on Monday. “The weapon is used in full deployment or drive stun mode when the subject is assaultive.”

The report notes an incident where a cop threatened to Taser two suspects’ testicles to obtain information. Const. Christopher Hominuk has pleaded guilty to threatening bodily harm and will be sentenced in June.

The report said Tasers were used in 210 incidents involving 226 subjects. It said officers at 31 Division were the highest users of the devices having relied on them 26 times last year. Officers from 41 Division were next with 24 times and 23 Division used them 11 times.

The report said 56 suspects in incidents where police used Tasers were believed to be emotionally disturbed.

“In 51% of the incidents officers perceived the subject behaviour as assaultive,” the report said. “In 30% of the incidents, officers believed the subject behaviour was likely to cause serious bodily harm or death.”

Police said in one case, a suspect who had just robbed a cab produced a knife and held it to his throat in a bid to evade police.

“Because he believed the suspect was about to further harm himself, the sergeant used his (Taser) in full deployment mode,” the report said. “The suspect was arrested and received immediate medical attention.”

Police believe suspects who are Tasered are armed about 58% of the time.

The report said when deployed in the drive stun mode, the taser can leave “minor burn marks” on the skin where it makes contact.

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