TORONTO - Fed up with taking the blame for every police shooting as well as being “thrown under the bus” by politicians, the Toronto Police Association is telling the Toronto Police Services Board to either put up or shut up on the issue of supplying Tasers.
In an electrically-charged letter to TPSB chair Andy Pringle, TPA president Mike McCormack is asking that officers be equipped immediately with less lethal force options than Glock revolvers.
“I am writing to again raise the issue of providing CEWs (Conducted Energy Weapons) to front-line officers,” McCormack wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the Toronto Sun. “The time for action on this is now.”
We certainly can’t wait for the next person to be shot by police and then pretend that it had nothing to do with politicians’ refusal to provide officers with the tools they need.
The time for action was actually in August 2013.
Shortly after the streetcar shooting of Sammy Yatim resulted in second-degree murder charges being laid against Const. James Forcillo (he was later convicted of attempted murder), the provincial government cleared the way for Tasers to be issued to all officers — not just supervisors.
“The use of CEWs has proven to result in fewer significant injuries to the public and police officers than many other use-of-force options,” then-community safety minister Madeleine Meilleur said.
The cost was supposed to be less than $5 million. Nothing happened.
So what happened?
McCormack is not the only one wanting answers.
After recently warning his members their conduct is being assessed through an “anti-racism” lens, he sent off the letter about Tasers to help prevent future police shootings and to protect his members from being fingered with all the ridicule should one occur.
The inquest into the fatal police shooting of hammer-wielding Andrew Loku was the catalyst.
“There are now more than 12 coroner’s juries that have recommended that CEWs be made available to front-line officers, and the provincial government is also in favour of such a move,” wrote McCormack.
Why wait for a 13th?
Said McCormack: “It is unclear to me why the police services board does not support such a sensible initiative, particularly given its potential to help manage the risk inherent in volatile situations involving the police and the public. Front-line police officers require ready and immediate access to an additional, non-lethal option for ending confrontations since the present practice of issuing CEWs sparingly to supervisors has been proven to be unacceptable.”
Imagine if the front-line officer in the Loku case had another option? Same in the shooting death of mentally-ill 30-year-old Ian Pryce, who was carrying a pellet gun when shot in November 2013.
It’s not fair to keep blaming police for these shootings when they are supposed to have equipment to prevent lethal force but have not been supplied it.
McCormack has shined a bright light on that.
“On behalf of the men and women of the service who find themselves engaged in these potentially life-and-death struggles on a daily basis, the association requires that the police services board act quickly on this important matter,” he wrote.
And if they don’t?
“We request that you at least make public your reasons for not approving something for which there is such a clearly demonstrated need.”
Pringle or Mayor John Tory, expected at Wednesday’s police board meeting, have yet to respond. Nor has Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Is it a funding issue? Training issue? Just what is the issue?
There seems to be money for trips to China, for bike lanes, safe injection sites, and upgrades to stadiums.
Why not life-saving Tasers?
Perhaps politicians should appear before the inquest into the Loku death to explain why police don’t have Tasers.
Better yet, instead of bowing to activists or going with the unsubstantiated narrative that there is systemic racism, politicians can cancel future junkets and get the Toronto Police properly equipped with non-lethal tools.
As McCormack said so well in his letter, “the public and the police deserve no less.”