While front-line officers will soon have them, use is limited to specific circumstances
Acting Chief Dan Markiewich said Thursday that 45 conducted energy weapons – the generic term police use, rather than the brand name Taser – will be added to the force's existing stock of 30.
“It's great news for our front-line officers,” Markiewich said. “We hope to have everyone trained by this time next year.”
The $139,951 cost to purchase the weapons will be funded through the force's capital budget. Annual replacement and maintenance costs of $19,745 will be included in the next police budget.
The province announced last year that police forces could expand the use of Tasers, but the announcement didn't come with funding. Sudbury had considered having the private sector raise money to purchase the weapons, if the province paid for training.
But the force opted to find the money internally, and officers on the force already trained to use the weapons will train their colleagues. Each officer will get 12 hours training before they begin using Tasers on patrols, and will have to re-qualify once a year.
The weapons will be given to police at the start of their shifts in the same manner as police cruisers and portable radios.
“And at the end of the shift, they'll be handed back in and reassigned to another officer,” Markiewich said. “This is considered an intermediate weapon, such as our pepper spray or batons. Now officers will have this additional tool.”
There are specific rules in place governing when Tasers can be used, the chief said. And when they are used – or even removed from the holster – officers must file reports detailing the incident.
Markiewich said officers may use them when a suspect is threatening them or others, acting violently or presents an “imminent danger” to themselves or another person.
“So it also includes suicide threats or attempts,” he said, citing an example from Ottawa when a mentally disturbed patient was holding a kitchen knife to his own throat.
“Officers were commanding him, 'Put the knife down! Put the knife down!' and he wasn't doing it,” Markiewich said. “Subsequently, the weapon was deployed, he didn't receive any injuries and he was taken for treatment.”
“So there are clear rules in place for this … There always has to be accountability, and that's governed by both our internal policy and by provincial policy.”
Since 2003, there have been 220 cases in which officers in Sudbury have used Tasers. But police argue the deterrent effect of Tasers can help calm dangerous situations, as well as give officers a non-lethal option to subdue violent suspects.
“We believe we can now start rolling out the newer weapons, and the 30 weapons we currently have will eventually be replaced with the newer technology,” Markiewich said.
The purchase of the weapons is on hold until the province approves a new Taser model for use in Ontario. The company will stop production of the current X26 models later this year, and have come out with two new models. They boast improved battery performance and other features that Markiewich says improve on the X26s.
“It's the bigger, better brother,” he said, but added the voltage will remain the same.
“It's up to the ministry. Whenever they give the approval.”