Toronto police say stun guns hit highest use in five year
A police-issued Taser gun is displayed at the Victoria police station in Victoria, B.C. May 7, 2008. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Chris Herhalt, CTV Toronto
Published Friday, March 17, 2017 7:24PM EDT
Toronto police drew or discharged conducted energy weapons (CEWs) during the course of 292 separate incidents in 2016, the highest number of incidents where stun guns were used in the past five years, a new report shows.
A report submitted to the Toronto Police Services Board Friday shows the number of incidents where conducted energy weapons were used in the city rose 10 per cent between 2015 and 2016, and 52 per cent from the service’s five-year low in 2013, where stun guns were used in 192 incidents.
But in 57 per cent of those incidents, officers merely drew the weapons from their holster and possibly powered them on — but did not fire or otherwise make contact with a subject — in what is called “demonstrated force presence” in order to resolve an incident.
The report also shows that where the weapons are most often used, and with whom, has remained somewhat consistent over the past five years.
Incidents involving emotionally disturbed people, as well as emotionally disturbed people under the influence of substances, continue to represent close to half of all incidents where stun guns are used in the city.
In 2016, 47 per cent of incidents where CEWs were used involved emotionally disturbed people, or emotionally disturbed people under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both.
Together, two of the city’s 17 policing divisions represented 24 per cent of all stun gun usage.
One was 51 Division, which includes neighbourhoods such as Cabbagetown, St. Jamestown, Moss Park, Regent Park and the Church and Yonge corridor, and represented 14 per cent of all stun gun usage in the city.
The other was 14 Division, which includes much of the western side of the city’s waterfront, Parkdale, Trinity-Bellwoods, Chinatown, Little Italy, Kensington and the Annex, which represented 10 per cent of stun gun usage in the city.
In 2015, those two divisions represented 18 per cent of all incidents involving stun guns.
But the report’s authors say the “divisions and municipalities where CEW incidents have occurred over the past five years do not yield any notable patterns.”
Under current use of force guidelines, CEWs can only be fired at or used to shock a subject if is assaultive or is likely to cause serious bodily harm or death to another individual. If a subject is merely resisting police, the stun gun can be drawn, but not make contact with an individual in any way.
Toronto police equip frontline supervisors and emergency task force officers with stun guns; they are not given to standard patrol officers.
Stun guns were considered to be “effective” in dealing with a situation 88 per cent of time.
“Ineffectiveness has been associated with shot placement, poor conduction (e.g. the subject was wearing heavy clothing), or situations where the subject failed to respond to the demonstrated force presence of the CEW,” the report says.
In three instances, CEWs were used against dogs. Ninety per cent of subjects stun guns were drawn or used against were male.
Six individuals were injured after stun guns were used on them last year, the report says. In one case, a man fractured his orbital bone after he was struck by the wired barbs from the device.
Two lawsuits were filed against the service by subjects who were hit with stun guns last year.
The report will be considered by the Toronto Police Services Board on March 23.