Toronto

Toronto council asks police to consider 911 texting

Toronto city council is asking the police services board to review options that would enable residents to text 911 instead of making phone calls.

'There are situations in which making voice calls would attract unwanted attention,' Coun. Norm Kelly says

911 texting options are available for deaf and hearing- or speech-impaired residents, but not the population at large. (CBC)

Toronto city council is asking the police services board to review options that would enable residents to text 911 instead of making phone calls. 

The motion was put forward Thursday by Coun. Norm Kelly, who came up with the the idea following a mass shooting at Orlando nightclub Pulse last month. During that incident police received frightened calls from the club's bathroom from trapped people worried the shooter might hear them talking.

Several US cities have considered similar options in the wake of the Florida massacre.

"There are situations in which making voice calls would attract unwanted attention and texting would provide a safe alternative," the motion reads.

There are no jurisdictions in which all residents can text 911, Kelly says. The service is currently available for deaf and hearing- or speech-impaired residents, as a result of a 2013 CRTC ruling.

"We'll be asking police to take a look at how the system works in other places where it's widely available and report back on the challenges they've faced ... I'm hoping the benefits outweigh the challenges."

In June, Toronto police's transformational task force released a report looking to modernize the service and proposed a 911 "cost recovery fee" for all land and wireless telephone users. 

That report, which was debated by the city's police board, notes the proposed fee would also "provide the foundation for future investments in new 911 technology including allowing the service to receive text messages, photos, videos and better location information."

Kelly says he hopes the service can be implemented as early as 2017.

With files from The Canadian Press

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