Montreal police seeking to increase number of stun guns for its officers
Montreal police outlined a proposal Tuesday to bring in stun guns for every two-person team by 2020.
A group of senior police officers told city councillors Tuesday they’ve been impressed with the effectiveness of the controversial weapon — noting that simply displaying it is usually enough to defuse the situation in 80 to 85 per cent of cases.
The presentation to the city’s public security committee focused on police use of intermediate weapons — a term for tools such as conducted energy weapons, batons and spray that are not intended to cause serious injury or death.
It includes a plan to make stun guns more widespread.
Officers will begin training soon — using the stun weapon requires two days of training and an annual refresher.
Cmdr. Daniel Gervais said the weapon was deployed 236 times in Montreal in 2017 and made contact with a suspect just five times.
“The simple act of showing the weapon to the suspect was enough to defuse the situation,” Gervais said.
Montreal police deputy police chief Dominic Harvey, in charge of rank-and-file officers, told councillors about a recent high-risk intervention in a busy downtown mall that was resolved using a Taser.
“They (officers) said if they didn’t have it, they would have only had their service weapon to resolve the situation,” Harvey said. “Whether it’s maintaining order in a situation like the one I described, the objective is to minimize the amount of force used.”
Interim police chief Martin Prud’homme sent a memorandum to officers Monday, noting police stationed at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport as well as in the subway system will also have the weapons in addition to front-line officers.
But one longtime Montreal city councillor urged caution before the city authorizes widespread use of the stun guns.
“All the information shows quite clearly that Tasers are not harmless weapons,” said Marvin Rotrand.
He said an increase in the number of shock weapons in the United States has resulted in far more frequent use by authorities.
“What’s generally happened is that intermediate weapons have led to lazier policing,” he said.
Similar debates over expanded use are taking place in other cities like Toronto and Ottawa, where police have also made the request.
Montreal police subsequently added more electro-shock weapons to their arsenal following a recommendation in a 2016 coroner’s report into the death of a homeless, mentally ill man named Alain Magloire in 2014.
Magloire was fatally shot by police, with the coroner finding that officers didn’t have a stun weapon available during the incident.
The coroner suggested the number of stun weapons was insufficient for a city the size of Montreal and lagged behind the number in other Canadian cities like Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto.
There was a call for a moratorium on stun weapons after the death of Quilem Registre in October 2007. He was shocked six times in a minute and died four days later. The coroner who investigated said it might have contributed in his death.
Rotrand, who voiced his opposition following Registre’s death, again urged careful consideration.
“I don’t think that this should be buffaloed through city council,” he said.
Dan Philip of the Black Coalition of Quebec also called for police to take a different tact and focus on training to deal with mental health cases.
“The emphasis should be on training, the emphasis should be on protecting lives,” Philip said.
“A system should be in place — not to Taser people — but to give them an opportunity, to give police an opportunity, to deal with those problems.”
- Sidhartha Banerjee
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2018
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