Tasers yet to be proven effective in Nunavik, police force says
Weapon used only once after being sent to four communities last spring
KUUJJUAQ—The Kativik Regional Police Force introduced Tasers to four Nunavik communities last spring, with the hope that they might ease violent confrontations and reduce civilian deaths.
But officers have only successfully used a Taser once ever since.
That’s because the tools are usually used in outdoor settings, but not effective through heavy clothing, KRPF chief Jean-Pierre Larose told Viens commission hearings last month.
“The actual darts cannot penetrate parkas,” Larose told hearings on Nov. 22 in Kuujjuaq.
Nunavik’s police force introduced Tasers as a tool to help de-escalate violent, high-risk incidents, particularly ones involving an armed individual.
Last March, the KRPF received its first Taser for its Kuujjuaq detachment and deployed three more of the stun guns to Inukjuak, Puvirnituq and Salluit.
The goal has been to send a Taser to each of the region’s 14 communities, but Larose said the force is also looking at what other weapons they could use.
Tasers are costly, he explained, at $500 a cartridge.
“The cost of purchasing and requalifying the equipment is very expensive,” Larose said. “So as an intermediate weapon it’s interesting but … we are studying [other options.}”
Responding to questions from hearing prosecutors, Larose said that the KRPF is not equipped to deal with most calls involving an active shooter, with between just three and five officers in each community and the absence of the same equipment and training a SWAT team would have.
“Not only are we not equipped, it’s not part of our level of services,” Larose said.
That’s why the force often calls in backup from the Sûreté du Québec. But Larose reiterated concerns about the length of time it can take for help to arrive.
That was the case in September, when an Inukjuak man barricaded himself in a home, later threatening police. KRPF officers shot and killed the man before the SQ even arrived.
That incident is one of a number of police-related shooting deaths Inukjuak has seen in recent years, prompting a community meeting with the KRPF scheduled for this week.
KRPF’s management has also fielded a number of requests to see the force call in an Inuit negotiator or elder to help speak to suspects who are threatening violence, an issue that was raised again during Kativik Regional Government council meetings last week.
Larose asked regional councillors to help the force identity who could fill that role—someone who could work with what he called a “multi-disciplinary committee” that would respond to crisis situations.
“If it can help us de-escalate and to resolve issues without violence, then it’s my goal,” he said.