TORONTO: Pepper spray approved for TTC

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@idirect.com)
Fri, 25 Sep 1998 16:03:20 -0400


September 25, 1998=20
Pepper spray approved for TTC=20

Police board allows transit guards to carry blinding weapon=20

By John Duncanson=20
Toronto Star Police Issues Reporter

The Toronto police services board has given the green light for transit
constables to use pepper spray, despite pleas from poverty groups to reject
the plan.=20

The Toronto Transit commission has only to get approval from provincial
Solicitor-General Bob Runciman's office before it can arm its 57 security
officers with the canned foam.=20

The TTC approved the use of pepper spray in August, but needed the
permission of the Toronto force and the government.=20

Transit officials want the spray because several incidents that have put
security staff at risk.=20

The seven-member police board gave its blessing yesterday, despite
last-ditch efforts by anit-poverty advocates.=20

They fear pepper spray will be used on the most vulnerable in society - the
mentally ill and homeless.=20

P. J. Lilley, a member of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, told board
members she was hit by the spray while protesting at last year's
Asian-Pacific summit in Vancouver.=20

TORTURE

``I was in excruciating pain,'' Lilley said, adding that the dangers are
increased for people with heart or respiratory problems.=20

Pepper sprays, usually made from jalapeno or cayenne peppers, temporarily
blind and choke recipients.=20

Don Weitz, another poverty activist, told the police board he had a U.S.
report that stated 26 people died in California between 1993 and 1995 after
being hit in pepper spraying incidents.=20

He said those who died were all men on some sort of medication or drugs.=20

Weitz repeated the findings of an Amnesty International report, which found
the use of pepper spray ``tantamount to torture.''=20

Even some board members expressed their discomfort of what might happen if
the spray is released into the busy subway system.=20

``As a TTC rider I think it's frightening, that type of risk,'' said Sandy
Adelson, the newest member of the police board.=20

Adelson asked Chief David Boothby for specialized training of TTC
personnel. However, Boothby said he doesn't envision wild scenes of TTC
officers spraying into crowded subway cars as the cars travel down tunnels.=
=20

``I just don't think that's going to happen,'' Boothby said.=20

Norm Gardner, chair of the police board, echoed Boothby's sentiments,
saying fears about pepper spray are ``being exaggerated.''=20

The police will be monitoring the spray's use by TTC constables. If abused,
the force has the power to immediately take it away from TTC security
staff, board members were told at the meeting yesterday.=20

Mike Walker, the chief of security for the TTC, also said he doesn't
foresee innocent riders being hit with spray as guards make arrests.=20

He said the foam spray, which has a range of nearly 2 metres, fires in a
narrow band and is ``very directional.'' If bystanders are hit in an
incident, he said, the TTC will take full responsibility.=20

``We, the TTC, are liable if someone gets sprayed. We will pay for any
damages or any cleanup,'' Walker told the board members.=20


The TTC's plainclothes special constables, who already carry handcuffs and
expandable metal batons, made 610 arrests on the transit system last year
and laid charges including attempted murder, robbery and sexual assault.=20

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