Public input on Tasers called for in LaSalle
The LaSalle Police Service wants to gauge public opinion on stun guns.
"We want to literally go out to the community and see if this is something they want and why they like it and why don't they like it," said community liaison officer Jamie Nestor.
On Thursday, the department held the first of two public forums on the issue.
The department already has three tasers in use. Nestor says the device is an intermediate weapon, in line with pepper spray or a baton.
"On each platoon, one member, it's usually the sergeant or whoever's in charge that day, is the one that carries the taser. We're hoping that all officers could be armed or have these tools available to them," Nestor said. "Our goal is not to be able to use it but it's a nice, effective deterrent, as well."
Fred Stibbard, who teaches police foundations at St. Clair College agrees.
"The taser now puts another tool in the police officer's tool belt that could possibly have them not go to deadly force," Stibbard said. "So I think it's going to save lives in that respect."
Stibbard spent 32 years in policing.
He said far more emphasis is placed on training today and officers are better equipped than when he began in 1974.
His students feel the taser is a good alternative to avoid deadly force.
"I think anything that would be a step in between your communication and the deadly force, anything you can put in between there to prevent you from having to use it, I think is something that would be beneficial for any cop," student Bikramjit Randhawa said.
Fellow student Ken Adair agreed.
"Communication is definitely key. But if communication doesn't work, you're going to have to move on to the next level and it's something you're going to have to use," Adair said. "So having a taser is just one more think you can use before using deadly force or a gun."
Stibbard said tasers don't come without their downsides.
"Are there cons? Sure, there might be people that have certain medical conditions ... that could lead to their death," Stibbard said. "But there's going to be far less deaths that come at the hand of a taser than there will at the hand of a gun."
That happened in 2007, when Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski was tasered five times by the RCMP at the Vancouver Airport.
Since the Dziekanski case, police taser use has dropped significantly in Canada. The RCMP, for example, has seen a drop of 41 per cent.
The LaSalle police will be hosting another public session next Thursday from 5 p.m. 8 p.m.
Meanwhile, in Windsor, the Windsor Police Services Board approved the purchase of 25 new Tasers earlier this year.
The Tasers cost of just under $100,000, training included. The department already has 24 stun guns.