Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that public consultations would be held at Old City Hall. This has been corrected.
Chief Bill Blair says the Toronto police force could afford to expand taser use, citing an “opportunity” within the proposed capital budget to pay for more of the stun guns.
In a report contained in the agenda for Thursday’s Toronto Police Services Board meeting, Chief Blair points out that while buying more tasers isn’t now factored into the force’s 2014-2023 capital program request, “the Service’s current capital program is below the City’s debt targets.”
“As such, there is an opportunity to include the increased deployment of [conductive energy weapons] as a project within the program,” he wrote, noting it is too soon to know how many more officers might receive tasers if the force goes ahead with the expansion.
Tasers have recently come under heightened public scrutiny, after one was used on a fatally wounded Toronto teenager on a streetcar in July, and after Ontario’s police watchdog launched an investigation into the tasering of an 80-year-old woman it says fractured a hip after being struck.
On Monday, the police services board announced it will hold a public consultation on Sept. 24 at City Hall to ask Torontonians whether they think tasers should be in the hands of more officers. Stun guns had until recently been restricted in Ontario to tactical teams and supervisors, but last month the province’s Community Safety Minister announced the device could now be used by all front-line officers.
The move drew criticism as a knee-jerk reaction to the controversial killing of Sammy Yatim, an 18-year-old who was wielding a knife when he was shot multiple times and then tasered on the streetcar floor. However, the ministry has said the decision followed years of reviewing medical literature and consulting with police.
The province didn’t promise any additional funding for new weapons or training, which could cost millions for jurisdictions such as Toronto. Chief Blair estimates the cost of a taser at $1,500, though he notes in the report that there are also operating costs for training, maintenance and the replacement of cartridges.
“A detailed assessment would be required to determine exactly how many officers would be equipped and what the training and on-going operating requirements would be,” he wrote.
Thursday’s board meeting is slated to begin at 1:30 p.m.