Frontline police officers in Ontario could be equipped with Tasers by the end of the year, the Sun has learned.
That’s good news for Ottawa police Const. Keith Martin, a use-of-force instructor, who says the controversial devices called conducted energy weapons, saves lives.
“There’s been many calls, actually, in my career where I definitely could’ve used one,” said Martin.
Currently, sergeants and tactical officers, or SWAT teams, are the only city cops carrying them.
“At any given time we would probably have 10 to 12 on the road, easily,” said Martin.
Patrol officers have to request a sergeant’s presence and “sometimes you can’t wait,” he said.
Martin offers up an example of two constables at a call for a suicidal man with a knife to his neck, who then charges at police.
“And then they end up shooting him,” said Martin. “If one of these constables had had a Taser, they probably could’ve saved his life.”
The policy regarding expanded use of the weapon is under review, community safety and correctional services ministry spokesman Craig MacBride confirmed Tuesday.
The ministry is considering allowing the province’s police chiefs to make the weapons available to frontline officers, who will need additional training.
“The last thing we want to do is hurt someone,” said Sgt. Steven de Ville, in the use-of-force unit.
A decision is expected by winter.
“We’re supporters of less than lethal perspectives,” said Amnesty International Canada secretary general Alex Neve.
However, “Tasers really need to be used and deployed by specialized officers,” instead of all patrol cops, said Neve.
In addition, he’s calling for a provincial standard mandating its use only to avoid loss of life or serious injury, and when it’s the only alternative to a firearm.
Use of the weapons would increase but that doesn’t mean use of force will spike, Martin said, noting deployment of pepper spray and the baton would likely decrease.
In Ontario, cops must see “assaultive behaviour” in order to justify using the stun gun.
“So we’re not using it if we say ‘you’re under arrest’ and the guy says ‘no.’ We’re not going to use a Taser on the guy, right? It’s only if he actually fights,” said Martin.
About a dozen years ago, Ottawa became the first municipality in Ontario to arm its service with the device.
“I’ve been hut by a Taser a couple times. I will take a Taser 1,000 times before I ever get pepper sprayed ever again,” said Martin.
“Pepper spray was the worst day of my life.”