Expanded Deployment of Conducted Energy Weapons (TASERS)

Taser

The Midland Police Services Board is requesting the community's input into the potential expansion of conducted energy weapons in the Midland Police Service.

Please take the time to read the following report and recommendation prepared by Chief Mike Osborne and complete the short survey that is linked at the bottom of this report.

The Board will be reviewing these responses and discussing the matter at an open Board meeting June 18th 2014 at 4:00PM. Anyone wishing to make a deputation on this matter at that June meeting is asked to contact Shelley Cozac either by phone or using the webform and choosing to send it to the Midland Police Services Board.

Chief's Report To The Board

On August 27, 2013, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) announced the authorization for the expanded deployment of conducted energy weapons (CEW’s) in Ontario.

The Ministry explained that:

Conducted Energy Weapons (CEWs) have been in use by police in Ontario since 2002. Until now, only frontline supervisors and officers who are members of tactical units, hostage rescue teams and containment teams have been permitted to carry CEWs.

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) initiated a review to explore the advisability of expanding deployment of CEWs. The review included an examination of current medical literature, a jurisdictional scan and consultation with stakeholders, including police and civil liberties advocates.

Following the conclusion of this review, the Minister has decided to lift the existing restriction and to allow police services to determine which officers should be permitted to carry CEWs, based on their local needs and circumstances.

The government is committed to openness and accountability in policing. After consulting with policing and community groups, the government is introducing changes that:

  • Provide direction and guidance as to when a CEW would be deemed to be appropriate;

  • Increase reporting provisions (i.e., CEW use will be reported in an open and transparent manner, including when a CEW is displayed with the intention to achieve behaviour compliance);

  • Enhance training, including scenario-based training and training for interactions with people with mental health issues, to assist in ensuring the safe, appropriate and effective use of CEWs; and

  • Expect that police services should engage local communities prior to deciding to expand CEW deployment in their jurisdiction.

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services will continue to monitor and review the use of CEWs and will assess the impact of expanded use going forward. In addition, the Ministry will continue working with our community partners to review de-escalation and review use-of-force training, including best practices for police officers interacting with people in crisis (http://mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca).

MCSCS is now finalizing the amended Use of Force Guidelines and training standards for trainers and users. The Ministry does not contemplate amending the threshold when the device can be used.

The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) has maintained that CEWs have an important role to play in protecting the public and police officers from violent individuals, as well as protecting violent individuals from injuring themselves. Organizations that use CEWs must have the proper policies and procedures, as well as the training and the supervision to ensure they are used in the right circumstances, for the right reasons. Within those policies and procedures, there must be clear accountability and transparency. With clear policies and procedures, a well-trained officer with a CEW, properly supervised and fully accountable for all use-of-force decisions, can save lives.

Furthermore, the OACP believes that, based on the experience of its members, an expanded deployment of the device to uniform primary (first) response constables is warranted. Restricting the devices to supervisors limits the ability of police services to respond safely and promptly to situations where the potential for confrontation and injury often escalates quickly.

Waiting on a Supervisor or member of a special team to attend deprives first responders of access to a Ministry approved, less-than-lethal force option that has been used time and again to safely end dangerous situations. As a result, the risk to public and officer safety can increase. The OACP has historically supported broader deployment of CEWs to primary response officers.
Thus, the Ministry’s announcement and the OACP’s position are fully aligned. However, the Ministry has not directed police services to expand current deployment of CEWs. Instead, it has left the decision to the local Chief and Police Services Board. In fact, the Ministry goes further and “expect[s] that police services should engage local communities prior to deciding to expand CEW deployment in their jurisdiction “.

With its announcement, MCSCS has introduced a higher level of participation by police services boards than before. This is deliberate. While, historically, weapons deployment has been largely an operational decision, it is clearly the Ministry’s view that the deployment of CEWs will be subject to board input in the form of policy development. Given the public interest and sometimes controversy surrounding the weapon, the Ministry believes it deserves special consideration. Thus, the Ministry will likely advise that, Police Services Boards may now take the necessary steps, in partnership with their Chiefs of Police, to develop a policy on CEW authorization. That policy should reflect and preserve any current CEW deployment model that has been implemented by the Chief of Police with respect to members of tactical units/hostage rescue teams, preliminary perimeter control and containment teams and front line supervisors or their designates. Further, that policy should identify any further classes of police officers that are authorized to carry CEWs.

Consultation and Research

  • After much consultation and research, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services has approved the expansion of deployment of CEWs to front-line police constables. This approval took into consideration inquest jury recommendations (12 in total), medical assessments, input from policing stakeholders, and community input, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

  • Since November 30, 2006, the Midland Service has deployed CEWs to front-line supervisors (as permitted by current Ministry guidelines) allowing for a CEW to be available, although limited for emergency response.

  • In Midland and in accordance with Ministry standards, the CEW is only used in full deployment or drive stun mode (direct application) when the subject is assaultive as defined by the Criminal Code. This includes threatening behaviour if the officer believes that the subject intends and has the ability to carry out the threat, or where the subject presents an imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death which includes suicide threats or attempts.

    Therefore, direct application of the device is only utilized to gain control of a subject who is at risk of causing harm, not to secure compliance of a subject who is merely resistant. Since 2006, the device has been used three times in the town of Midland. In another 16 cases, displaying and not using the device was sufficient to prevent the continuation of the threatening behaviour.


  • Each year, the Service reports to the Board on the use of CEWs. The Service’s record consistently demonstrates that officers are using good judgement under difficult circumstances. Furthermore, the record also demonstrates that officers are making appropriate decisions to use only the force reasonably necessary to resolve tense and dangerous situations. Moreover, the CEW has proven to be an effective tool that has helped avoid injuries to the public and police officers. Consequently, the Service believes that through proper policy, procedures, training, and accountability, the CEW is an appropriate use of force option that can help maintain public and officer safety.

Training

  • Each of these officers will be issued a CEW only after they have completed the Ministry approved user training. The Service expects that this training will consist of 12 hours of study and scenario based exercises four (4) hours longer than is currently the case; in addition to annual use of force training. The training will include practical and written examinations. The officers will need to demonstrate knowledge and proficiency on the legislation development and introduction, and the structure and function of the weapon and its effects. The four additional hours are dedicated to judgement training and the CEW Training Team has re-designed the practical scenario training to continue to emphasize that officers must use sound judgement along with effective communication and de-escalation techniques when deciding whether to use force and what force options to use.

  • The training is based on a set of principles that foster the responsible and accountable use of CEWs, while recognizing that they are an appropriate tool for officers who must resort to use of force. These guiding principles are that:
    • The decision to use force is the fundamental decision to be made before deciding what force option to use,
    • CEWs should be used as a weapon of need, not a tool of convenience,
    • Officers should not over-rely on CEWs in situations where more effective and less risky alternatives are available, and
    • CEWs are just one of a number of tools that police have available to do their jobs, and are considered one part of overall use-of-force policy.


  • Recertification training takes place every 12 months, in accordance with Ministry training standards. Ministry certified use of force instructors conduct all CEW training.

  • The Service can start the training immediately so that the extra CEWs can be deployed before the end of the 2014 (if applicable).

Conclusion

  • For more than seven years the CEW has been widely deployed within the Service and carried regularly by 4 Sergeants and in their absence 4 Acting Sergeants. During this time, the Service’s record consistently demonstrates that officers are using good judgement under difficult circumstances and that they are making appropriate decisions to use force only when reasonably necessary to resolve tense and dangerous situations.

  • The Service is confident that the CEW is an effective tool and believes that through proper policy, procedures, training, and accountability, the CEW is an appropriate use of force option that can help maintain public and officer safety.

  • Consequently, based on the MCSCS announcement that it will lift the current restrictions on CEW deployment, the Service is requesting Board support for the expanded deployment across the Service that would see approximately 12 additional front-line officers equipped with a CEW and 3 or 4 devices in operation at any one time. Deployment to all front-line officers would ensure a CEW was available at all times, and not only when the Supervisor was present.

Recommendation

The Ministry has an expectation that police services should engage local communities prior to deciding to expand the deployment in their jurisdiction. I would suggest that the Board advertise that this report is available for pick up at the Police Service, available on our web page and that the Board will receive deputations at an upcoming meeting.

Financial Implication

Funds are available in the Service’s 2014 budget for the purchase 4 devices that may be shared within the Service, as well as training and other requirements

How A Taser Works