Saturday, February 4, 2012

Toronto Police need more Level of Force options

Another Toronto Police Services shooting death of a disturbed individual -- this time right outside Psychiatric Hospital -- shows again, Police Officers need more level of force options. 'Net Capture' or 'Retiarius' force escalation capability works on many levels

Update: 07 Feburary 2012:

Toronto Star - "Mystery surrounds man shot by police" -
"Michael Eligon Jr. remains mostly a man of mystery several days after he was fatally shot in a confrontation with police while wearing a hospital gown on an east-end street, blocks from the hospital.

Most important, it has not been revealed how he ended up at Toronto East General Hospital and how he came to flee Friday morning clad in hospital gown, socks and carrying two pairs of scissors.

Privacy laws prevent the hospital from commenting on Eligon’s status there. The province’s Special Investigations Unit, the police watchdog, is probing the Milverton Blvd. shooting.

Relatives flew in to help his family prepare for his funeral. “We’re still trying to figure out what happened,” said a family member who asked not to be identified.

“He was very quiet,” said a man named Mario, the building manager where Eligon lived in the Dufferin and King Sts. area. “He wouldn’t talk much. He would only talk to you if you talked to him first.”


 03 Feb 2012
Blood stain on Milverton Boulevard, Toronto after Police shooting of man in hospital gown armed with two pair of scissors - screenshot from CTV Toronto News, raw helicopter footage -

News Item:

"Man shot dead in confrontation with Toronto police"
Friday 03 February 2012
CBC News - staff
A man has been shot and killed after a confrontation with Toronto police in the city's east end.

The incident happened on Milverton Boulevard near Coxwell Avenue.

Police received a call at 10:04 a.m. after a man was seen in the neighbourhood who appeared to be disoriented and confused, waving two sets of scissors.

The 29-year-old man was wearing a hospital gown.

CBC's John Lancaster reported from the scene that the man had walked out of the East General Hospital, at Coxwell and Sammon avenues, attacked an employee at a nearby convenience store, then unsuccessfully tried to carjack someone else.

... the rest...

This morning I joined a Facebook event page that was hurriedly formed Friday to marshal a community response to this senseless shooting (see Angels of Justice

At the Angels of Justice page I posted the following:

I've said it before and people laugh at the idea - but police need to be trained to use nets --- exactly for situations like this.

They have only three options if a weapon is present: billy clubs, tasers and guns. The club is too close, the scissors may stab the officer as they wield it; the taser usually causes a heart attack (confused delusional subjects usually have extremely heightened adrenaline); and the gun almost always results in death or life long disablement.

Nets, and training how to use them. Like Roman Gladiators, an excellent response against a hand held weapon. Once the subject is down, entangled in the net, a long pole with a bean bag on the end can be used to hold down the arm of the captured individual, making it safe for another officer to disarm them.

Retiarius: "net-man" or "net-fighter" in Latin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -
(my comment link -

A screenshot of a scene from the movie Spartacus - a Universal Pictures release, 1960. 
The trusting arm of each combatant has chain-mail armour. Actor Woody Strode (left) uses long weapons, a trident and a net - which he is throwing over his adversary - while actor Kirt Douglas (right) uses short weapons, a knife and small shield.

I don't blame the Officers.

I blame the Toronto Police Services Board, the Chief of Police and Toronto City Council for not having the vision to form a Toronto Police Services Retiarius Unit (Retiarius: "net-man" or "net-fighter" from the Latin).

Look at the hell we're putting Officers in, in these kinds of calls. Friday's shooting is a perfect example of why Toronto Police need more level of force options.

The incident starts with a report to police about a guy acting weird, dressed in a hospital gown waving about 2 pairs of scissors - the suspect has obviously walked out of a hospital (that the police know has a mental health department). He's wearing socks on his feet on a cold day - so he's not going far - and, he's easy to spot. Police quickly surround the suspect according to one witness 11 police cars blocked the street and 16 officers confronted the man. He can surely no longer endanger the public - but now the officers have the responsibility to resolve the situation - but they also have to worry about their own personal safety and that their comrades. But the only level of force options they have is pepper spray, a taser and their guns.

I don't know weather a taser was or was not used in this case, no witnesses mentioned one in all the news coverage - but in these types of cases, where the suspect is extremely animated, or delusional (out of touch with reality), and thus terrified, the shock to their neurons doesn't seem to make them comply - rather it can ADD energy to the suspect's raison d'être - their resistance to complying to an authority figure, a condition researchers have termed "excited delirium".
"The Canadian Police Research Centre describes excited delirium as a potentially fatal state of extreme mental and physiological excitement that is characterized by extreme agitation, hyperthermia, hostility, exceptional strength, and endurance without apparent fatigue." 
(from "Conducted Energy Weapons (Tasers)" published in June 2008) < Policy Positions < Canadian Mental Health Association -

In a situation where a suspect armed with a weapon like scissors, or a kitchen knife - tasering can make the situation MORE dangerous for police to resolve; and that goes for the pepper spray option as well - (now flailing blindly).

In this writer's opinion, in a situation where the suspect is having a delusional episode (a break with reality - which is often accompanied by extreme paranoia) - a tasering will very likely lead to MUCH more of the same.

So the next step in the Level of Force Continuum is the gun.

Despite the delusion that afflicts many, officers don't want to kill people - especially an obviously deranged person with a tiny little pair of scissors - but what choice do they have?

Police don't have enough level of force options. It goes from pepper spay - that blinds, to a taser - that is often lethal, to a gun - which is almost always lethal. In a group think situation the story plays out quickly, and ends predictably.

Officers involved are left with a life altering experience that had nothing to do with justice; and they - and the community - are left with a paradox that only further alienates everyone from one another.

I have noted in researching this article at least 14 similar deaths since 1988. This level of force vacuum in the force continuum - between temporary blinding, the ineffective and often deadly taser, and the deadly force of a gun - has to be filled with more non-lethal force escalation choices.

In a similar incident at Yonge and Wellesley in March 2005, a deranged man with a kitchen knife was surrounded by officers in the centre of the intersection. In this case the fellow specifically said to police that he wanted to die and that he couldn't kill himself, so he went out into a public space with a kitchen knife hoping police would shoot him.

The only reason I think he wasn't shot was that other officers were in the line of fire.

Eventually in a brilliant move by an officer in a patrol car - using it as a weapon of blunt force - brought the man down by slamming him into a bike lock-up hoop. The video below is horrendous - the impact looks like it broke several bones in his rib cage, and maybe his pelvis - but in the end it probably saved his life.

And pepper spray didn't work either!

This is ridiculous. A suicidal man with a kitchen knife and all the kings horses and all the kings men just barely resolved the situation without (fundamentally) murdering a citizen.

Another in a long list of similar incidents I have researched for this article - in 1997, Edmund Yu, a 35-year-old man with schizophrenia and wielding a knife, was shot by Toronto police after he tried to flee the boxing-in of a City Bus on Victoria Park Ave.. The aweful irony of this story is that his family phoned 911 and told the dispatcher that their son was mentally ill, that he had boarded the Victoria Park bus, and that they were worried ... could Police please bring him home?

They hadn't considered that 'alive' was a necessary qualifier.

Mental Health workers and family members of the troubled must by now be keenly aware of how inadvisable it is to seek Police help in order to find their lost loved-ones.

Another gouge in the super-structure of Civil Society.

From -
Mental Health Advocates Find Police Training Inadequate
October 11 2011
by Josh Tapper

While Toronto police response to mentally ill assailants has improved over the years, mental health advocates argue not enough is being done to prevent unnecessary deaths, even after numerous recommendations by inquests.

The fatal confrontation between 52-year-old Sylvia Klibingaitis, shot dead outside her North York home on Oct. 7 after allegedly wielding a knife in front of police, is the fourth fatal confrontation between Toronto police and the mentally ill since 2008 — and at least the 14th since 1988.

... the rest -

'Shock' Weapons vs 'Subdue' Weapons

The Policy Position paper on Tasers, from the Canadian Mental Health Association that I quoted from above also talks about how the taser works. It shocks the nervous system which is ordinary circumstances, stuns an individual.

The 'shock' type solution, weapons that overload the nervous system - don't work on drugged Up, or hyped Up individuals a far as I can see. An athlete, say a hockey player (the fastest game in the world) -  if stunned with a taser after a 2 minute shift during a hockey game - would probably not go into shock - rather, they'd be re-energized, ready for 2 more minutes on the ice.

Thus the logical route to go is a 'subduing' weapon  - a dart perhaps, like researchers use when they tag animals in the wild. I would guess there's all kinds of issues around that idea: different individuals may by allergic to certain inhibitors, some may have a immunity to the effects, some may suffer side effects like liver damage if a dose for a large suspect is used against a smaller suspect (and judging weight can be tough in winter coats) ...

So perhaps a less invasive solution - like a net. A net is effective on everyone, has no side effects and the long use of which in the history of warfare provides ample sourcing materials to begin such an officer training coarse. It is fairly easy to use; and you can try and try it again if you miss; and as weapons go, it is very inexpensive.

And then there's the modern way to throw a net - the net gun; for those who have issues with apprehending a suspect with a womb-like capturing net, nets now come with a phallus-like launcher! :)


Net Gun Starter Pack

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