This article is from an original publication by CBC News on November 10, 2020
Greater Sudbury Police received the request in June and it is still being reviewed
Sudbury police officers are asking for a new type of weapon they say will save lives.
It’s a launcher that fires rubber bullets, which police could use in tense situations instead of reaching for their guns.
“It’s like being hit with a 150 mile an hour slap shot,” says Sudbury Police Association president Randy Buchowski.
It looks and sounds like a gun and can fire a golfball-sized rubber projectile as far as 50 metres
Buchowski says it allows officers to disarm someone at a distance without using deadly force.
Two years ago, Sudbury police shot and wounded a knife wielding man in the downtown transit terminal, with some bystanders getting hit by shrapnel.
It later came out in court that the man went to the bus station that day intending to commit “suicide by police.”
Buchowski says if officers were equipped that day with one of these launchers, often known by the brand name Arwen, they could have taken the suspect down much more quickly and safely.
“No officer goes to the work and says ‘I want to shoot somebody’, people go to work saying ‘I want to help somebody,'” he says.
“Taking someone’s life affects the officer for the rest of their life and many don’t recover. So having this option, we can save a life there and also save the life of the officer.”
Stephanie Lefebvre, the director of programming and planning with the Sudbury branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, says she applauds the police association in looking for non-lethal options.
She says work is underway to create mobile mental health response teams in the north, which would aim to disarm someone in distress with conversation instead of confrontation.
“I don’t think it’s looking at one or the other,” says Lefebvre.
“I think police should have non-lethal options available to them, however that is still far down the line in preferred response.”
Buchowski said the association made this request in June, estimating that it could cost about $5,000 to purchase a launcher for each patrol sergeant’s cruiser.
“We might be the first ones in Ontario. We could be pioneering it here, which would be amazing,” he says.
“Because the only time we get change is tragedy brings change. And this is the one time we want to be ahead of the curve.”
Greater Sudbury Police declined an interview, but said in a statement that the request is being reviewed by its equipment and clothing committee.
“De-escalation continues to be the most effective tool that forms our response to persons in mental crisis,” reads the statement.