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City steps back to review arming officers

August 12, 2016 11:15 A.M.
One of the 'defensive tools' seized by bylaw officers.

After considering the idea of arming bylaw officers with defensive weaponry, the City has opted to put the brakes on to ensure all implications are weighed.

David Duckworth, community safety director, said the decision was made to delay the introduction of pepper spray and batons over concerns related to potential liability.

Jon Wilson, community safety officer, said there is a need to step back and consider a broader range of issues as well, including training and policy.

A request for “personal protection equipment” was brought forward after a rough year for City bylaw officers in 2015. There were at least five assaults on officers over a six-month period. In one of the more serious incidents, an officer was struck with a skateboard.

“It was definitely an anomaly,” Wilson said of the assaults last year. “But the reality is that staff are dealing with aggressive situations every day.”

Staff are working with a heightened awareness when working with people felt to be potentially violent, he noted.

After raising the matter with City’s co-ordinated law enforcement task force, Wilson made the case before council in February. A number of weapons, “defensive tools” seized from transient camps, were used to show the potential danger for officers.

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