July 30, 2013 2:32 pm

Toronto police officers have few non-lethal options

Watch: Investigating what non-lethal weapons Toronto Police have. Mark Carcasole reports. 

TORONTO – After the recent shooting of 18-year-old Sammy Yakim aboard a TTC Street, many people across Toronto are asking why the police officer, who allegedly fired nine shots at the teen, didn’t utilize non-lethal force first?

But Toronto’s police officers have few non-lethal weapons at their disposal.

Story continues below

Rank-and-file police officers in Toronto only have pepper spray and batons, while supervisors and Emergency Task Force (ETF) officers can also carry conductive energy weapons – commonly referred to as Tasers.

Chris Menary, a security expert at the Menary Group, suggests police officers need to be given more non-lethal options.

“All officers should be armed with these options. I don’t know why supervisors are the only ones,” Menary said. “You have to give them these options to deal with these threats that are coming up.”

“A firearm would be the last resort,” he added.

Menary however is quick to point out that each situation presents a different set of circumstances which could justify the use of deadly force.

Yakim was alone on the 505 Dundas Street West streetcar near Bellwoods Avenue just after midnight on Friday when he was confronted by police. Police officers can be heard shouting “drop the knife” but so far, no available footage captures what, if anything, Yakim was saying.

The streetcar and Yakim’s position in relation to the police also presents a challenge when using non-lethal force, Menary said: A baton couldn’t have reached Yakim and would be difficult to use inside a streetcar and pepper spray wouldn’t have reached and could have blown back onto the officers. Police also may have been too far away to use a taser.

But what about other non-lethal weapons?

In May, Vancouer police used a non-lethal bean bag gun to knock down and arrest a man wielding a knife after a suspected robbery at a grocery store.

And earlier in July, a 61-year-old east Vancouver man, allegedly destroying cars and damaging neighbours’ homes with an axe was arrested after being hit with a bean bag gun.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is investigating the conduct of the officers and Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair will be doing his own report on the shooting.

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin hinted on Monday that his office may launch its own investigation into the shooting.

But a former police officer said the tactics used by police may have gone too far.

“I know the Toronto police are trained to do well with tactical takedowns, this did not to me look like at all a good tactical takedown,” said former Toronto Police Service investigator Ross McLean during an interview on The Morning Show Tuesday.

“They know how to de-escalate, they know how to be tactical, but here in this one it seemed to go very fast to an escalation,” McLean said. “It just ramped up to the point there’s audio that apparently has the officer very close to daring this young man to step forward and when he stepped forward, that’s when he was shot.”

-        With files from Mark Carcasole

© Shaw Media, 2013

Report an error