Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut January 14, 2014 - 4:20 pm

Proposed Taser purchase alarms Iqaluit council

Councillors baffled by “Taser and laser” request in 2014 budget

PETER VARGA
Taser is the brand name for a type of electroshock stun gun, usually used by police forces to incapacitate people. (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS IMAGE)
Taser is the brand name for a type of electroshock stun gun, usually used by police forces to incapacitate people. (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS IMAGE)

A expense item listed for Iqaluit’s municipal enforcement department raised eyebrows and some alarm among city councillors, Jan. 13, on day three of council’s review of the city’s proposed budget for 2014.

Listed as “Tasers and lasers,” with a proposed expense of $10,000, the amount came with little explanation, other than that it would pay for two items at $5,000 each, said chief administrative officer John Hussey. One of the items is a taser, he said.

Tasers, or stun guns, are hand-held electro-shock weapons, normally used to temporarily incapacitate people.

Their use by RCMP throughout Canada has proven controversial in recent years, because of incidents in which people died after being shot by the weapon.

“Given the controversy over this type of equipment all across the country, do we really want to go this way?” Mayor John Graham asked.

“I would ask the same question,” said councillor and deputy mayor Mary Wilman. “I would like to know why we need Tasers in the first place. What kind of people would they be dealing with?”

“I would never support Tasers for our municipal enforcement officers,” said Coun. Kenny Bell.

“We have a hard enough time in Canada with our RCMP and police forces having them. And I honestly don’t think — especially with our lack of policy all over the city — I can’t imagine allowing municipal enforcement officers using tasers.”

Councillors Simon Nattaq and Noah Papatsie wondered if municipal enforcement’s demand was tied to animal control.

Noting the occasional incidence of attacks by vicious dogs in Iqaluit, Papatsie asked if using stun guns on such animals “might be a better solution, instead of killing the dog.”

Coun. Romeyn Stevenson, who chaired the budget meeting as head of the city’s finance committee of the whole, asked if municipal enforcement had budgeted for training, to back their use of the weapons.

Hussey replied that the city’s chief municipal enforcement officer, Kevin Sloboda, included training expenses in a “professional development” budget.

“I know about two years ago, he had one of his officers on Taser-training,” Hussey said. “I think he wanted to continue with that.”

Coun. Mark Morrissey said the use of Tasers should be first run through a public safety committee meeting for complete information on municipal enforcement’s plans.

“There’s obviously enough head-shaking around the table to know this should be deferred until at least we get to talk to municipal enforcement officers,” Stevenson said.

Councillors agreed to put off decisions on the item until the next budget meeting, Jan. 15, when the chief of municipal enforcement could give an explanation to council.

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