Waterloo Regional Police recently were given the green light to equip all frontline officers with Tasers or other conducted energy weapons.

The organization plans to phase in that deployment over three years.

Once the weapons are in widespread use, police say, it will give officers a less dangerous alternative to firing their guns.

“It’s another option for the officers to have,” Staff Sgt. Mike Haffner said Monday.

Last week, 20-year-old Beau Baker was shot dead following an altercation with police in Kitchener.

None of the officers involved were carrying CEWs. Witnesses say Baker was holding a knife at the time, and threatening the responding officers.

According to Ontario’s Police Services Act, a police officer can only draw, point or shoot a gun if “he or she believes … that to do so is necessary to protect against loss of life or serious bodily harm.”

Any officer firing their weapon, a former OPP commissioner says, would have been trained to aim for the abdomen – the biggest part of the body.

 “When someone’s coming at you with a knife, you have very little time to get that gun out,” Chris Lewis told CTV News.

“These are difficult decisions, and they’re made in milliseconds.”

Officers undergo weapons training at the Ontario Police College, and have to requalify to carry weapons on an annual basis.

Guns are also fired regularly in training, which Lewis says helps officers develop muscle memory.

Lewis says police officers are taught to only draw weapons when they believe someone’s life may be in danger.

“Police officers have to do all they can to not escalate situations,” he said.

“They’re going to talk and they’re going to watch hands, and watch for signs that ultimately cause them to fear for their safety in some way. No police officer goes to work wanting to pull that firearm.”

Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, which is commonly called in when someone is killed or seriously hurt in a situation involving police, is investigating exactly what happened in the lead-up to Baker’s death.

They’re interviewing one officer who was directly involved in the incident, and seven others who witnessed it.

Police say the officer involved is a man with less than 10 years’ experience with Waterloo Regional Police.

He remains on active duty.

In some cases, police involved in a shooting are pulled off active duty for a period of time.

That decision is typically made by senior police officers, with input from people in the health care system.

“There’s no real rule specifically as to how long that might take. It varies from case to case,” Lewis said.

“Some officers want to come back immediately, because that’s what they do. They don’t want to be stripped of that.”

Questions sent to the SIU by CTV News had not been responded to as of the time this story was published.