Many people in Toronto have heard of the untimely death of an 18-year-old boy on a Toronto streetcar late last month. The young man's death was shocking, in part because police officer fired nine bullets at the teenager before using a Taser gun on him. Hopefully, Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur's recent announcement that all police officers in Toronto can now carry Tasers will prevent these kinds of tragic deaths from happening.
It may be that Toronto police officers needed to arrest the teenager when he brandished a knife on the streetcar, but they should not have shot him before using a Taser on him. Instead of being charged with a crime and entering the criminal justice system, the young man is dead.
It is not just the young man's family who believes the police officer was wrong to shoot him. The officers alleged to have shot the teenager was arrested and charged with murder. It appears the young man had a small knife and was alone on the streetcar when the officer opened fire.
When the minister made her announcement earlier this month, she cited the hope that Tasers would cause far fewer injuries to suspects when involved in a violent situation. Though she says that the death of the 18-year-old played no part in the province's decision, it will hopefully stand as an incentive to police departments to pay for Taser guns.
When someone is being confronted by police and arrested, it may be incredibly frightening, confusing and stressful, driving someone to do something they might not do in a rational state. Hopefully this law will protect those individuals and provide police with a safer alternative than shooting the suspect.
Source: National Post, "All Ontario police officers will be allowed to carry Tasers, province announces," Megan O'Toole, 27 Aug. 2013