Andrew Loku coroner's inquest urges Taser for police, re-igniting debate

A coroner's inquest into the police shooting death of Andrew Loku recommends officers in Ontario be armed with a taser instead, re-igniting a contentious debate.

5-person jury wants all front-line officers in Ontario equipped with, trained to use Tasers

Andrew Loku, 45, was shot and killed by police on July 5, 2015, after refusing to drop a hammer he was carrying. A coroner's inquest into his death recommends Ontario officers be armed with a taser or conductive energy weapon. (Supplied by coroner's inquest)

​The recommendation from a recent coroner's inquest to arm every police officer in the province with a taser, or conductive energy weapon, is raising concerns.

The recommendation came from the five-person jury at the inquest into the police shooting of Andrew Loku. The 45-year-old, who was originally from South Sudan and had a history of mental health issues, held a hammer as he walked towards police in his apartment hallway. A 911 call that night said a man with a hammer had threatened to kill his neighbour.

Surveillance camera footage of Andrew Loku

6 years ago
Duration 0:17
The fatal shooting of Andrew Loku has been deemed a homicide by the jury members sitting in on a nearly month-long coroner's inquest into the Toronto man's death.

"We can't just automatically say, 'This is a recommendation, let's go,'" said Coun. Shelley Carroll, a member of the Toronto Police Services Board.

The jury directed its call for more Tasers at Ontario's Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Service to ensure all front-line officers are equipped with and trained to use conductive energy weapons.   

Toronto mayor, councillor raise doubts

Toronto Mayor John Tory also raised doubts about handing out Tasers to all officers. "We're going to have to consult the public on the greater use of Tasers," he told reporters just after the jury released its recommendations last Friday, "because that's not something for which there's a consensus in the public."

Carroll worries the recommendation on stun guns could overshadow several others from the jury, aimed at helping police de-escalate tense situations.

"De-escalation is not tasing," said Carroll. "De-escalation is using something other than force ... I don't want us to get caught up in to Tase or not to Tase and avoid the recommendations about possibly using shields in de-escalation."

Should officers use shields? 

The use of shields is more common in Britain. In one incident mentioned by several people attending the Loku Inquest, officers there are seen on video dealing with a man who'd been threatening them with a machete. Protected by long shields, more than two dozen officers surround him, managing to tackle and then arrest him without any injuries.

"That one's a real revolution," said Carroll. "I've been waiting all my life in the police board for a real conversation about those shields."

As for the cost, Carroll estimated implementing all 39 recommendations would add up to what she described as tens of millions of dollars.

The Tasers alone, she said, would be millions of dollars to buy, train officers to use them and then maintain. She said each police shield costs a couple of thousand dollars.