Coroner says Montreal police should carry more stun guns

A Quebec coroner says two men who were killed in a police shooting in 2011 might still be alive if officers had been equipped with stun guns at the time.

Coroner Jean Brochu is recommending that Montreal police carry more stun guns as a result of his investigation into the death of Mario Hamel. Hamel, 40, was killed by police in June 2011.

The altercation began when police responded to a call about a man who was wielding a knife and tossing garbage around downtown Montreal.

Hamel, who had a history of mental illness, was cornered by police, ordered to drop his weapon, pepper-sprayed, and ultimately shot.

Hamel was killed along with a 36-year-old bystander, Patrick Limoges, who was struck by a stray bullet across the street.

No charges were laid against the police officers involved in the shooting of Hamel and Limoges.

Brochu is recommending that Montreal police be equipped with more stun guns and that they receive rigorous training for the weapons.

He said that one of the officers missed twice when aiming to shoot at Hamel, even though he was only a few metres away. According to Brochu, fewer than half of Montreal police officers are up to date on their firearms training.

"There's a problem with training at the police in Montreal. There's a lack of equipment, a lack of instructors and a lack of rooms to practice in," he said.

He also says in his report that police should be required to call an ambulance any time a stun gun is discharged.

At the time of the incident, Montreal police had a total of four of the stun guns for the entire force and have since added eight more.

Brochu is saying that is not enough. In his report, the coroner points out that Montreal police have the lowest firearm training requirements in the province, even though they are involved in about 80 per cent of shootings during police interventions in Quebec.

The coroner also recommends that Montreal police should be better trained for discharging their weapons under high stress situations.

In addition to recommendations to police services, Brochu has pointed to a lack of mental health services in the province. Among the recommendations made in his report was a proposal for increased frontline services for individuals with mental health issues and drug abuse problems.

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