TORONTO — Ontario’s governing Liberals are going to allow all frontline police officers to carry stun guns following the fatal shooting of a Toronto teenager last month.
Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur says it will be up to local police forces to decide whether to equip their officers with the weapons, and it will be up to those forces to pay for them.
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Meilleur says the decision was made after an extensive consultation with police and coroners across the province.
“This is the right decision to make and it will increase community safety by preventing injury and death,” she said at a news conference announcing the change.
Up to now, only supervising and specialized officers were allowed to carry stun guns, setting police in Ontario apart from counterparts in several other provinces along with the RCMP.
Police chiefs have been advocating for the expanded use of Tasers for years.
The issue has come under scrutiny after 18-year-old Sammy Yatim was shot multiple times and hit by a stun gun by police during a confrontation on an empty streetcar.
Videos of the incident sparked outrage and prompted hundreds of people to take to the streets in two separate marches to Toronto police headquarters.
The Special Investigations Unit has charged Toronto police Const. James Forcillo with second-degree murder.
In the wake of Yatim’s death, the Liberals said they would review officer training, equipment and how use of force incidents are reported.
Ontario’s ombudsman has launched his own investigation into the Yatim shooting, probing what kind of direction the provincial government provides to police for defusing conflict situations.
Retired justice Dennis O’Connor has been asked by Toronto police chief Bill Blair to lead a separate review of police procedures, use of force and police response to emotionally disturbed people.