Waterloo Regional Police Services (WRPS) is turning to the community for input regarding the expanded distribution of tasers among their officers.
While there is strong support for the expansion of tasers, or conductive energy weapons (CEWs), within the police force, the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the issue next month.
Last August, Ontario’s ministry of safety and correctional services announced a change in the restrictions concerning which officers could carry conductive energy weapons.
The ministry revised the use-of-force guidelines to support the expansion of the use of these weapons.
This allowed local police forces to determine which officers would be permitted to carry CEWs.
WRPS currently has 369 officers who are qualified to carry CEWs. However, the force only possesses 77 of these weapons, which are spread throughout the organization.
According to staff sergeant Shaena Morris, the use of these weapons had previously been restricted to designated positions and police teams, such as members of emergency response units.
“The ministry initiated a review to explore the expanded deployment of CEWs and after the review they actually revised the use-of-force guidelines to provide a wide expansion of CEW deployment throughout all of Ontario,” Morris explained in an interview.
Andrew Morrison, communications official for the ministry of community safety and correctional services, explained that the revision to the use-of-force guidelines is supported by medical research and recommendations by coroners’ inquests.
“This approach supports local decision-making based on operational needs,” Morrison said.
“It responds to coroners’ inquest recommendations regarding expanded use and will bring Ontario in line with the majority of Canadian provinces who do not limit CEW use to designated officers.”
A report will be issued next month at the WRPS board meeting, where police chief Matt Torigian will bring forward a recommendation and potential alternative options for increased taser deployment within the region’s force.
“We’ll certainly be doing some consultation with the community and our key stakeholders so that they have an opportunity to express their views and opinions,” Morris added.
According to the ministry, the use of CEWs are less likely to cause significant injuries than alternative use-of-force options, and that overall the risk of serious injury is relatively low.
“The needs of communities vary,” Morrison said. “Local police services are in the best position to determine that nature of consultations within their communities depending on their local needs and circumstances.”
WRPS is encouraging public input regarding their plans to expand the use of CEWs, a move that is recommended directly from the ministry.