Possible abuse with taser use

Peel Regional Police recently tasered an 80-year-old woman named lole Pasquale, who has dementia and wandered away from her Mississauga home late at night. While she was allegedly carrying a knife which she “wouldn’t relinquish,” this event should make all Ontarians wary of the fact that more front-line police officers will be carrying tasers in this province.

There are virtually no excuses for tasering an 80-year-old woman. The officer in question probably should have exercised greater restraint. Anyone with an elderly grandparent or a general respect for seniors would agree that such an action should be a complete last resort.

That said, police are put into very tough situations and being hyper-critical of police tactics without the benefit of full context isn’t good form. Officers have to make judgements very quickly in pressure-filled circumstances. Nevertheless, this case is a good starting point for a discussion about taser use in light of changes in police policy.

In the aftermath of the Sammy Yatim case, in which a young man on a streetcar was shot nine times by Toronto Police, the Ontario Community Safety Minister announced new rules which will allow regular police officers to carry tasers. Previously, only “supervising and tactical officers” were given permission.

If tasers are going to be issued to more police, there should be a re-evaluation and tightening of the rules surrounding their use. Because tasers are perceived as non-lethal, the risk is that Ontario police officers will use them more than they would use guns. A significant increase in taser use would be completely unacceptable and would likely lead to more incidents like the one that occurred in Mississauga.

These events also raise questions about police recruitment practices. If regular officers are going to have more responsibilities, shouldn’t there be higher standards when hiring them?

If more police officers are going to carry tasers, their use should be strictly monitored. Tasers can be deadly weapons and should be used at a last resort, much like firearms.

Corrections

September 24, 2013

This article has been updated to reflect the following correction: The woman who was tasered is named lole Pasquale, not Angela.

The Journal regrets the error.

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