Friday, August 1, 2014

TASERs in Toronto

Everybody pay attention to these next two sentences, ok?

If your police force is shooting too many people, TASERs are not the solution. The solution is not to shoot people except in dire circumstances.

Thank you for paying attention.

Last week, a major report came out in Toronto as a result of the death of Sammy Yatim. There are 84 recommendations and you can read them all here. Among them is the following, as covered by the press:
The report urges a pilot project to study whether first responders – the front-line officers most likely to encounter people in crisis – should have tasers, which advocates say allow police to gain control of difficult situations without drawing their guns. Currently, only Toronto Police supervisors and tactical officers carry the devices.
However, in treading cautiously on the issue, Mr. Iacobucci recommended that officers who use tasers also be issued monitoring technology such as body-worn cameras. He also urged Toronto Police to advocate for studies on the medical effects of tasers, which detractors warn can be unsafe in certain circumstances, and help create a national database on their use.
There's a lot of good things in the report. The "zero death" goal is excellent, as that, indeed, should be the goal of our police forces.

And TASERs are fine as a tool for the police. U.S. experience shows, though, that when you give cops TASERs, they use them all the time. If you make the ubiquitous in Canada, unless you also build rigorous guidelines and prosecute those who break the guidelines, they will become the low-stakes default, as if shooting something with 40,000 volts of screaming agony isn't serious.

Good luck Canada. I hope you handle this better than we have.

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