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No Tasers For Toronto Police, Communities Urge

October 18, 2017

Toronto - The Urban Alliance on Race Relations, working on civilian oversight of police since 1975, is joined by lawyers and academics to oppose the buying of more tasers at the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) public meeting on 'Conducted Energy Weapons'.

WHAT: Press Conference outside of TPSB meeting on Tasers
WHEN: 6:45pm, October 18, 2017. Public meeting starts at 7pm.
WHO: Nigel Barriffe - Urban Alliance On Race Relations; Professor Lesley
Wood - York University; Peter Rosenthal - Lawyer
WHERE: Outside Toronto Central Grosvenor St. YMCA Centre, 20 Grosvenor Street where the Public Meeting is being held

Nigel Barriffe - Urban Alliance for Race Relations
"It is clear that when there are police shootings of citizens, they are mostly of racialized people who are often in crisis, we all have the right to better policing. Toronto Police should follow other jurisdictions across Europe and Asia and disarm front line officers, rather than giving them more lethal weapons. Andrew Loku’s death was caused by a systemic failure- charging one officer and buying more weapons is not the solution."

Desmond Cole - Police Accountability Activist
"Weapons guarantee and promote violence, they do not end violence. Let's devote more resources to de-escalation, dialogue and police accountability."

Professor Lesley Wood - York University
"Expanding the distribution of TASERs by the Toronto Police Service will not make the city safer. There is solid evidence that TASER adoption does not limit police shootings. At the same time, TASERs are disproportionately used against those in mental health crisis, and against racialized communities. While the TASER/Axon Corporation is very effective at marketing their weapons to police agencies, we need to ensure that the decisions made in this city are made in the interest of safety, not profit."

Peter Rosenthal - Lawyer
"Tasers are not reliable enough to be used in circumstances in which a firearm would be justified; thus officers are trained not to use them in such situations. Nonetheless, one of the main arguments advanced for Tasers is that officers might use them, contrary to training, as an alternative to firearms. It is also claimed that Toronto police officers occasionally use Tasers to try to stop people who are threatening suicide.

Since these are the main justifications for police use of Tasers, it is incumbent upon the Police Services Board to restrict Taser use to those situations: as an alternative to a firearm or to prevent a suicide.

Thus the Police Services Board must adopt a policy that a Toronto police officer may only fire a Taser at a person if either
1. The officer believes, on reasonable grounds, that it is necessary to protect against loss of life or serious bodily harm (which is the requirement for use of a firearm), or
2. The officer believes, on reasonable grounds, that it is necessary to protect against the person causing serious bodily harm to herself or himself.

Even with this policy in place, proper use of a Taser would be much rarer than officers violating the policy, so it would be best to simply not have any Tasers . However, if Taser use is to continue, such a policy must be adopted."

Quick facts
* Sammy Yatim was tasered after being shot 9 times. The second round of shots were deemed attempted murder. Had he survived those, the 1,200 voltage taser shot would have killed him.

* On 14 October, 2007 40-year-old Robert Dziekanski died in Vancouver International airport after being tasered by the RCMP. The United Nations's Committee Against Torture declared that Taser use can constitute a form of torture shortly after.

* Toronto Police Budget is over 1 billion dollars. Each Taser costs $2,500. Even an additional 1,000 tasers would increase the budget by 2,500,000. Costs of training each year would be on top of that.

For more information contact:
Nigel Barriffe
Urban Alliance on Race Relations
Phone: 416 427 1192

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