Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair addressed issues concerning the use of lethal force by officers after Friday night’s shooting at Queen Street subway station involving police sent an 18-year-old male to hospital with gunshot injuries.
Because the incident is currently being investigated by the Special Investigations Unit, a police watchdog agency that is called in to investigate reports involving police when there has been a death or serious injury, Chief Blair was unable to comment on specifics surrounding the case, but did tell CityNews that when officers are confronted with an armed individual, often using “less lethal force options aren’t appropriate.”
Witnesses of the Friday night shooting suggested the armed individual appeared to be suffering from mental distress, and one witness, Chris Godfrey, said he appeared “non-threatening.” But Chief Blair said officers face a unique challenge when dealing with someone who may be experiencing emotional or mental disturbances.
“Police officers have to deal with the threat that they’re confronted with. It’s the behaviour of the individual, not necessarily the underlying emotional condition or mental health condition of the individual,” he said during the TV interview. “Somebody with a weapon and particularly with a firearm represents an enormous threat to public safety and police officers have to respond to that.”
Chief Blair also said it’s paramount that the public wait until all the facts come out before criticizing the use of lethal force.
“People should understand precisely what our officers are confronted with and the choices that they have when they do respond.”