Coroner recommends more stun guns for Montreal police
MONTREAL—The Montreal police should have increased access to stun guns.
That is one of the many recommendations by Coroner Dr. Pierre Brochu following the shooting deaths of two people at the hands of Montreal police.
On June 7, 2011 police shot and killed a homeless man, Mario Hamel, and passerby Patrick Limoges.
Broche admitted that stun guns are not perfect, given that their use by police has also led to deaths.
"Those who know this matter better than me report that it's been abused," said Brochu, adding that in many cases stun guns are a better choice than a firearm.
"Let's face the facts that in this case a Taser gun would have done no more harm than what a gun did. On top of killing Mr. Hamel it killed another person. A Taser gun would not have killed Mr. Limoges," said Brochu.
“We have three stun guns in each region,” said Montreal police spokesman Ian Lafreniere. “It used to be two, now it’s three and in January it will be four. Yes, we’ve increased the number of Taser guns, but we aren’t talking about one Taser for each officer.”
Just over 50 stun guns are spread across the nearly 4,500 officers in Montreal’s police force.
Better firearms training needed
Brochu said that unlike other deaths he has investigated, he was lucky to have access to video from numerous surveillance cameras to determine what happened on June 7, 2011.
He said it's quite clear that police confronted Hamel, 40, after he was cutting garbage bags on Ste. Catherine St. with a knife. Witnesses said that police arrived without sounding the sirens on their car, and tried to calm down Hamel before he ran off.
According to the coroner, video footage showed many people passing Hamel before police shot him—including a woman in a wheelchair who passed right by the man.
“He wasn’t a criminal. I know he had a knife and it was dangerous, but there was probably a better way to settle that intervention,” said Brochu.
On nearby St. Denis St. police say they feared for their lives and fired three bullets at Hamel. One bullet struck the man while two others missed. One of those stray bullets ricocheted off the sidewalk and struck Limoges in the head as he was bicycling near the scene.
Brochu said, in the light of that inaccuracy in shooting, police should be getting more training using their firearms in stressful situations, and should be required to undergo frequent retraining while on the job.
In his report Brochu also recommended improving social services for psychiatric patients and people with mental health problems.
He also said police throughout Quebec need more training in dealing with violent confrontations.