A Quebec coroner says two men who were killed in a police shooting in 2011 might still be alive if officers had been equipped with stun guns at the time.
Coroner Jean Brochu is recommending that Montreal police carry more stun guns as a result of his investigation into the death of Mario Hamel. Hamel, 40, was killed by police in June 2011.
"He would have still been alive and, probably Mr. Limoges would still be walking toward Saint-Luc for his daily work," said Brochu.
The altercation began when police responded to a call about a man who was wielding a knife and tossing garbage around downtown Montreal.
Hamel, who had a history of mental illness, was cornered by police, ordered to drop his weapon, pepper-sprayed, and ultimately shot.
According to the coroner's report, Hamel was hit in the back and killed by one bullet.
Two other shots were wide. One of them struck a 36-year-old bystander, Patrick Limoges, who was walking to work.
No charges were laid against the police officers involved in the shooting of Hamel and Limoges.
Brochu is recommending that Montreal police be equipped with more stun guns and that they receive rigorous training for the weapons.
At the time of the incident, Montreal police had a total of four stun guns for the entire force and have since added eight more
Sgt. Ian Lafrenière, spokesman for the Montreal police, said about 350 officers will be trained on using Tasers.
"This is not a solution for everything," he said. "It's still dangerous. There's still some consequences."
Montreal city councillor Marvin Rotrand agrees stun guns aren't necessarily safer than firearms.
"I think the coroner wants the police department to take a giant step backwards," he said. "There should be stricter protocols about firearm use and better training on that."
Brochu also says in his report that police should be required to call an ambulance any time a stun gun is discharged.
Lack of training, coroner says
Brochu said that one of the officers missed twice when aiming to shoot at Hamel, even though he was only a few metres away. According to Brochu, fewer than half of Montreal police officers are up to date on their firearms training.
"There's a problem with training at the police in Montreal. There's a lack of equipment, a lack of instructors and a lack of rooms to practice in," he said.
The coroner points out that Montreal police have the lowest firearm training requirements in the province, even though they are involved in about 80 per cent of shootings during police interventions in Quebec.
The coroner also recommends that Montreal police should be better trained for discharging their weapons under high stress situations.
In addition to recommendations to police services, Brochu has pointed to a lack of mental health services in the province. Among the recommendations made in his report was a proposal for increased frontline services for individuals with mental health issues and drug abuse problems.
In his investigation report, Brochu outlines the following recommendations:
- Have the health minister collaborate with the Montreal health and social services agency to put in place ongoing psychosocial services for people suffering from mental health issues or drug problems.
- Increase the number of specialists who can help police officers when they are intervening with people suffering from mental health issues or drug problems.
- The Quebec police academy should continue to study new practices and strategies to intervene with violent people or people in crisis. He also suggests that the school should rework its firearms training to take into account different types of confrontations.
- Equip more police officers with stun guns and offer proper training along with the obligation of calling an ambulance as soon as the use of a Taser is required.
- Offer more mandatory firearms training to police officers to teach them to shoot in stressful.