Emergency Task Force (TPS)
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The Emergency Task Force (ETF) is the tactical unit of the Toronto Police Service. It is mandated to deal with high risk situations like hostage taking, emotionally disturbed persons, high risk arrests, warrant service and protection details.
The unit was created in 1965. An earlier non-SWAT Riot and Emergency Squad emerged in 1961. Part of its role is now undertaken by the ETF, Public Safety and Emergency Management, and the Mounted Unit.
The ETF is a fully manned 24 hours a day tactical response team. Unlike most SWAT teams, the ETF is not a pure paramilitary unit. The ETF mission profile includes terrorism and counter-terrorism threats in some extreme cases.
The Emergency Task Force currently comprises 82 officers from all units who are tactically trained. There are seven Special Weapons Teams consisting of 10 officers each. The teams are on-call 24 hours a day, every day of the week. Each tactical team has a team leader, assaulters, snipers, bomb technicians, and a negotiator. All team members are trained as assaulters, and thus are able to perform any necessary tasks requiring force.
The negotiation team consists of the two ETF Staff Sergeant supervisors. If a situation is not resolved by a member of a Special Weapons Team, who is a trained negotiator, the negotiation team will be called in to take over the negotiations. In more complex calls involving suicidal, homicidal-suicidal, or violent emotionally disturbed individuals, a forensic psychiatrist, who has been on the negotiation team for the past 22 years, can be called to the scene to advise the negotiators and/or incident commander.
The unit is located in Toronto, in a 35,000-square-foot (3,300 m2) building that was built in 1989. It contains:
- meeting rooms
- two shooting ranges
- a rappelling tower
- an exercise room
- a large garage to house the unit's specialized vehicles
Three of the TPS's specialized units compose the ETF. These include the special weapons teams (tactical), explosive disposal unit (EDU), and the emergency response unit (ERU). The ERU provides specialized equipment for the ETF, including high powered lights, crane, and the mobile command post.
The teams train at their Don Mills station, as well as at CFB Borden, a Canadian Forces (CF) base approximately an hour and a half drive north of Toronto. The unit also trains with members of the CF's counter-terrorism unit Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2), who are based at the Dwyer Hill Training Facility outside of Ottawa.
In a medical situation, Toronto EMS tactical paramedics in body armour work along with the ETF.
The ETF maintains a close working relationship with other police tactical teams of the Greater Toronto Area, including the York Regional Police Emergency Response Unit (ERU), the Durham Regional Police Tactical Support Unit (TSU) and the Peel Regional Police Tactical and Rescue Unit (TRU).
The ETF use the MP5A3 sub-machine gun, Remington 700 bolt-action sniper rifle, Remington 870 shotgun, and the Diemaco C8 carbine, while the Glock 17 or 19 handguns are authorized as the officer's sidearms.
ETF also operates Northrop Grumman Remotec Andros MK V1A bomb disposal remote robots to defuse suspected bombs or suspicious objects. The newest robot used by the team is the Remotec Andros F6B.
The vehicles used by the team include the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, Chevrolet Suburban, Ford Expedition, Ford F150, Ford F550, pickup truck, Ford Explorer and the Ford Taurus Police Interceptor, they also have a number of Chevrolet express vans as RDVs. The ETF also have an armoured car which can be used to rescue injured civilians or officers. The current armoured car, an Armet Trooper was put into service during the summer of 2005.
Currently, the Toronto Police Service does not have its own helicopter, but has access to the helicopters from York and Durham Regional Police, along with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
ETF responded to an operation that involved rescuing a hostage-taking situation on December 31, 1999. A man took a doctor at St Michael's Hospital hostage, holding the doctor at gunpoint. The incident ended when two ETF officers fired 3 shots, killing the man.
ETF responded to an operation that involved rescuing a hostage-taking situation on August 25, 2004. A man with a history of domestic violence took a woman hostage, holding her at gunpoint during morning rush hour just outside Union Station in downtown Toronto. The incident ended when an ETF sharpshooter fired a shot, killing the man. The hostage was traumatized but unharmed.
ETF responded to another operation that involved an off-duty 33 Division Officer inside a CIBC bank on Lawrence and Victoria Park. On February 26, 2008, ETF, K-9 and officers from 33 Division were called to a bank robbery in progress. Unknown to the 16-year-old suspect, officers surrounded the bank and waited for the suspect to exit. The suspect left the bank only to be tackled by the off-duty officer and awaiting ETF.
ETF officers were involved with Project Fusion arrests. This was an investigation led by the Province of Ontario Guns and Gangs Task Force, whose officers were working hand-in-hand with other services, mainly the Durham Regional Police Drug and Gang Enforcement Units. These arrests happened on the morning of April 1, 2009 and saw over 120 locations raided by not only Toronto Police tactical officers, but officers from surrounding police services as well from as far away as Belleville and London, Ontario. In total, 38 police tactical units were used for these warrants. The centre of the raids was at the area of Markham and Eglinton, but also included locations in Peel and York Region, along with several locations in Durham Region.
The ETF responded to a call onboard a TTC bus in which a EDP tried to hijack the bus at knife point on August 2, 2016. The ETF and their psychiatrist negotiated with the man for over 5 hours and were successful in getting him to surrender, they have been highly praised by the media for taking the time to resolve the scene peacefully.
In popular culture
The television series Flashpoint focuses on a fictional version of the ETF, called The Strategic Response Unit. Fictional versions of the ETF and their Officers are depicted in other police procedural television series that are set in Toronto, such as Rookie Blue, Cracked and The Bridge.
- Henry, Michele (2008-11-19). "On the front lines with the ETF". The Star. Toronto.
- "Canadian Police Sniper Ends Hostage Situation With Head Shot". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
- "Toronto hostage-taker had history of domestic violence: reports". CBC. 2004-08-26. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
- Cherry, Tamara; Don Peat (2008-02-26). "Police foil east-end bank robbery". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 2008-04-17.[dead link]