CANADA – Toronto: Tasers are a tool, not a cure-all for police (2013-10-11)

Published on October 11 2013 by admin

[[SUMMARY / COMMENTS : Tasering in Peel, Ontario of 80-yr-old dementia sufferer in August shows tasers no magic cure-all for police. Need for more training and better communications skills to avoid repetition of such incidents.]]

Toronto Sun Editorial

Anyone who thinks Tasers are a magic cure-all when police confront armed individuals who are behaving irrationally should think again.

Equipping all officers with Tasers is being debated in Toronto in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Sammy Yatim.

The latest incident shows why Tasers themselves can be the subject of considerable controversy.

Last week, Special Investigations Unit director Ian Scott ruled there were no grounds to criminally charge a Peel Regional Police supervisor who twice tasered 80-year old Iole Pasquale.

She suffers from dementia and was wandering the street at night, carrying an eight-inch bread knife, when police confronted her on August 28.

Scott found that while tasering the confused, 80-year-old, who broke her hip in the subsequent fall, wasn’t the “preferred option” — that would have been waiting longer so see if police could persuade her to disarm — the officer didn’t commit a criminal act.

“The subject officer can be criticized for not waiting longer and perhaps he should have,” Scott wrote, especially in light of the “Peel Police’s internal directive that CEWs (Conducted Electrical Weapons) are to be avoided on elderly persons where possible.”

Despite that, Scott found, “the fact (the subject officer) used a CEW without waiting longer does not make its deployment unreasonable in a criminal law context.” Scott said the officers on the scene tried to convince Pasquale to drop the knife without success. The supervising officer reasonably concluded she was mentally ill and, given the knife she was carrying, a danger to herself or others.

Because she was noncommunicative, there was no way of contacting a relative to help calm her down.

The supervisor, who arrived last, said he considered trying to disarm her by hand, or using pepper spray or batons, but rejected all of those as too dangerous, ineffective, or likely to cause more harm than using the Taser.

Scott also noted the officers tried to get Pasquale to extend her arms so she would not fall on the knife when tasered.

All that said, Scott emphasized that, “the only other reasonable option not explored was to continue to track her and attempt to convince her to disarm herself. On reflection, that would seem to have been a preferred option.”

Indeed. What this incident tells us is that whenever police confront an armed individual, who is not responding rationally to police commands, the issue about what to do always comes down to one of good judgment and common sense.

And that only comes from proper training, no matter how many tools and weapons we give to the police.

In this case, while he didn’t do anything criminally wrong, the supervising officer appeared to be lacking in the one thing that might have led to a better outcome — patience — a good lesson to teach all police officers.



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