By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Don’t look to the provincial government to help pay for new Tasers if Hamilton councillors are willing to provide more of them to city police officers
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the province may provide some training of officers to use the conductive energy weapons, but it won’t give municipalities any more funding for the purchase or hiring of training personnel.
“That was never a commitment that was made,” said Wynne, during an interview at the Hamilton Convention Centre Sept 28 where she attended the Liberal party’s three-day provincial council session.
“We were very clear police and municipalities have the right to arm their police officers with CEWs,” she said. “When there were decisions made then they would be additional training for police officers at the provincial level.”
Wynne said at no point would the province be providing “a grant to the city” for the weapons and training.
As for the cost of the CEWs, Wynne said “that’s up to the municipality to make the decision” whether to pay the bill.
Hamiltonpoliticians recently approved a series of requests asking the police service to provide information on its use of force guidelines, and asking the province for past funding agreements between the city and province.
“This is not mandatory,” said Wynne. “It’s absolutely volunteer. It’s a choice. If it was mandated it would be different.”
The Hamilton Police Services Board is examining whether to buy about 150 additional Tasers and train another 579 officers to use them. The total cost of purchasing the weapons and training would be over $1.2 million.
Councillors balked at the potential bill, arguing Hamilton doesn’t have the money to fund such a large program.
“My answer is no,” said Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla. “We have the tail wagging the dog and we have to cut the tail off because we can’t afford it.”
Ward 3 councillor and board member Bernie Morelli said he “gulped” when he first saw the price tag.
“We can’t afford that,” he said.
In August the provincial government announced police services can expand their use of conductive energy weapon.
She said the decision to expand the use of Tasers for police services was based upon evidence the province had collected over the years.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” she said. “It’s a controversial weapon.”
Hamilton Police have carried Tasers since 2004. In 2013 there were 49 incidents involving the weapons, a jump from 22 recorded in 22.