After a year fraught with disagreements over money and management, Hamilton police are asking city hall for nearly $1 million to train more officers to use Tasers.

Hamilton Police Service wants to spend $992,462 to start and $635,433 each year after to train 579 more officers to use the stun guns.

The police services board voted Monday to approach city council with the idea. It will also canvass the community.

The money would also purchase 150 more Taser guns and hire two full-time trainers responsible for providing officers with mandatory annual training, Police Chief Glenn De Caire told the police services board Monday.

“It is a less lethal user of force option,” he said of Tasers. “It gives us another tool.”

On Aug. 27, the province announced an authorization process for the use of conducted energy weapons (CEW), often referred to by the brand name Taser.

Hamilton police have carried Tasers since 2004. Currently, 236 officers use them. Tasers were involved in 49 incidents in 2012, up from 22 incidents the year before.

In 17 of the 49 incidents, the Taser was used to “apprehend/control emotionally disturbed/mentally ill persons,” the report says.

The expansion would see another 579 officers trained to use Tasers. It would require a 12-hour training course. Then they require four hours of training each year after, said Staff Sgt. Will Mason. Part of the cost includes $226,449 to hire two full-time training officers in permanent positions.

If approved, the training would be completed by June 2014.

Coun. Lloyd Ferguson questioned why training costs would be the same year after year when each officer would only need a four-hour refresher course.

“It’s going to trigger some questions for us,” he said of his fellow councillors.

“I think we’re making the right decision, which is to go to city council.”

Hamilton police currently have 66 Tasers. Supervisors collect them at the end of shifts and redeploy them to the next officers on duty. 

Proposed costs for the expansion of CEWs include:

  • Equipment costs (150 X26 Tasers, holsters, cartridges, conductive targets): $324,611
  • Two training instructors:  $226,449 including benefits
  • Instructor courses (Taser Master and use of force): $11,800
  • Replacing officers who are receiving Taser training: $429,601

Money has been an issue between city council and the police service this year. In April, the police services board finalized a 3.52-per cent increase over the previous year’s budget after it was reduced three times at city council’s request.

City council then voted to ask the province for more control over management of the police service.