Despite concerns raised by the Canadian Mental Health Association and other members of the mental health community, the Toronto Police Services Board has voted to double the number of conducted energy weapons (commonly known as Tasers) in their arsenal.
The Taser purchase brings the number of the weapons owned by the service to about 900. Supporters of the purchase argue that it has the potential to save lives as will help close a ‘gap’ in the tools provided to officers.
CMHA Toronto and CMHA Ontario submitted a letter to the board sharing concerns on the impact of Tasers on the health of people in crisis. Research has found that Tasers may, in some circumstances, stimulate the heart and potentially result in adverse consequences. This finding is especially significant given increased cardiovascular vulnerability among people with serious mental illness. People with a mental illness appear to be at greater risk of developing irregular heartbeats (arrhythmia) and coronary heart disease.
“Police services should limit their use of (Tasers) to situations where the only alternative would be the use of deadly force,” wrote CMHA Toronto Executive Director Steve Lurie and CMHA Ontario CEO Camille Quenneville. “(Tasers) should only be the used as a last resort and after all other de-escalation techniques have proven unsuccessful.”
Read more about the decision on the Toronto Star website.