The Police Board’s Mental Health Sub-Committee held a public hearing yesterday to listen to Toronto citizens’ views on whether Tasers should be given to all front line police officers in the city.
More than 100 citizens signed up for five minutes to address the Board on issues ranging from health concerns to possible abuse of the weapon after the Ontario government voted to allow police officers to carry Tasers, previously only carried by supervisors and special tactical officers.
Most of those present were opposed to wide use of Tasers and were concerned that Tasers would be overused by police.
Syed Hussam, a member of the community group Disarm Toronto, told board representatives of his experience with the Toronto Police.
“I was interrogated for five hours then was walked down the hallway and I see a crowd of police officers around this man handcuffed on the ground bleeding then this cop walks up and Tasers him,” Hussam said.
“Then a cop grabs me and presses me down on the [handcuffed] man and says ‘this will happen to you if you don’t cooperate.”
The issue of deadly force, and the move to arm front line constables, comes in the wake of the shooting of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has spoken out previously on the issue, saying Tasers are the answer when dealing with volatile situations.
Although Alok Mukerjee, head of the Police Service Board, does not entirely agree that Tasers are the answer.
“I worry that some people may use the Taser as a short cut to good policing,” Mukerjee said.
“I would have to receive a great deal of reassurance that the protocol, the rules, the training were being enforced and that people were being held accountable.”