HRF: Public should have a say in Taser decision

Taser

 

Public “should have a say”

The HRF considers the public should have a say in the move to arm all frontline police with Tasers

HRF spokesperson and Auckland Council for Civil Liberties president Barry Wilson said it should require a law change, that would allow the public to have a say.

“There have been a number of cases where the use of a taser has gone badly wrong,” said Mr Wilson, who was also speaking on behalf of the Human Rights Foundation.

Examples of that included the case of Mark Smilie, who the Independent Police Conduct Authority found was tasered in an excessive manner when he on the ground while being arrested. Police had to pay Mr Smilie $20,000 compensation.In another case police used a malfunctioning taser six times on a man in 11 seconds.

Mr Wilson said tasers were supposed to be used as a last resort, not to ensure compliance.

“What these cases show is a casualness in the use of the taser and what will happen, there will be a great deal more casualness as a taser goes on the hip of every frontline police officer,” he said.

“It’s a short step towards routine arming of the police.”

NZ Herald report continues below:

All frontline police officers will soon be armed with Tasers while on duty.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush made the announcement from police headquarters in Wellington this morning, saying the change was about enhancing the safety of New Zealand communities and police staff.

Currently, frontline officers could access Tasers from a lockbox in police vehicles when required, however, the new initiative means tasers can be carried by appropriately trained, level-one responders, at all times.

There were approximately 5500 police staff trained as level one responders, Mr Bush said.

The implementation of the initiative would begin today but it would be weeks or months before frontline staff would actually be carrying a Taser.

The decision to role out Tasers to all frontline police staff was made following detailed research, which showed the Taser was successful in de-escalating violent situations, Mr Bush said.

“The reality is that police officers often enter into high risk situations.

“With Taser immediately accessible, this provides added confidence for our staff and communities that if a situation does escalate into violence.. our officers have appropriate tools to manage the situation.”

Police research showed for every nine times a Taser was presented, it was only charged once, he said, while other tactical options had much higher injury rates.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush during the press conference in Wellington this morning. Photo / Mark Mitchell

“Their working environment often involves entering high risk situations. Immediate accessibility of the Taser provides them with added confidence they can safely de-escalate violent situations.

“Officers have also cited examples where the Taser has proved a life saving alternative to a firearm.

“Firearms, which of course, will always remain the last resort.”

Police Association president Greg O’Connor said it was his hope that officers would never need to be armed with guns. The Taser was a “less lethal” option than a fire arm, he said, calling the announcement “courageous”.

“This is a relatively safe tool. Safer than most other options.

“This is a very sensible decision it will be welcomed by police officers throughout New Zealand, they’ll go to work tonight knowing they have a new tool in their belt, readily available and not in the car.”

Police currently have access to approximately 1000 Tasers. Between 400 and 600 new devices will be purchased as part of the new initiative.

The cost of purchasing more would be $600,000 per year, and it would be funded under the police budget, Mr Bush said.

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse said he “fully supported” the new taser policy and described it as a “welcome move”.

“We know frontline officers often find themselves in rapidly changing situations and it is not always practical to return to their vehicle to retrieve a taser,” he said.

“Having a taser strapped to their hip provides officers with another option to diffuse or deal with violent offenders.”

Tasers had proven to be an effective tactical option for both preventing and responding to high-risk situations, and the risk of injury to the public, offenders and police was consistently low, he said.

Since 2010, tasers had been available to police during 30,000 reported incidents attended by police.

“But due to their deterrent effect, in almost 90 per cent of cases they have not been discharged,” Mr Woodhouse said.

“We owe it to the frontline officers protecting our communities and keeping us safe to ensure they have access to all tactical options they may need during the course of duty.”

However, Dr Anthony O’Brien, senior lecturer at the University of Auckland’s School of Nursing said the use of Tasers needed “careful monitoring”.

“The perception of the Taser as safe may lead to increased use.

“In particular, the use of Tasers with vulnerable groups such as people with mental illness and addiction need to be monitored as in many instances individuals with mental illness are the subject of police attention due to aspects of mental illness, not criminal behaviour.”

 

Police Minister supports new policy

 

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse said he “fully supported” the new Taser policy and described it as a “welcome move”.

“We know frontline officers often find themselves in rapidly changing situations and it is not always practical to return to their vehicle to retrieve a Taser,” he said.

“Having a Taser strapped to their hip provides officers with another option to diffuse or deal with violent offenders.”

He said tasers had proven to be an effective tactical option for both preventing and responding to high-risk situations, and the risk of injury to the public, offenders and police was consistently low.

Since 2010, tasers had been available to police during 30,000 reported incidents attended by police.

“But due to their deterrent effect, in almost 90 per cent of cases they have not been discharged,” Mr Woodhouse said.

“We owe it to the frontline officers protecting our communities and keeping us safe to ensure they have access to all tactical options they may need during the course of duty.”

The minister said the new policy would require the purchase of between 400 and 600 devices, which would be funded from within the police’s existing budget.

 

Public “should have a say”

 

Not everyone supports the move.

Auckland Council for Civil Liberties president Barry Wilson said it should require a law change, that would allow the public to have a say.

“There have been a number of cases where the use of a taser has gone badly wrong,” said Mr Wilson, who was also speaking on behalf of the Human Rights Foundation.

Examples of that included the case of Mark Smilie, who the Independent Police Conduct Authority found was tasered in an excessive manner when he on the ground while being arrested. Police had to pay Mr Smilie $20,000 compensation.In another case police used a malfunctioning taser six times on a man in 11 seconds.

Mr Wilson said tasers were supposed to be used as a last resort, not to ensure compliance.

“What these cases show is a casualness in the use of the taser and what will happen, there will be a great deal more casualness as a taser goes on the hip of every frontline police officer,” he said.

“It’s a short step towards routine arming of the police.”

 

Background on Tasers

 

What’s a Taser?

A Taser is a handheld stun device, often shaped like a gun, that uses electric current to cause pain or to disrupt muscle control, made by American company TASER International. The weapons sell on the company’s website for between US$129.99 (NZ$198) and US$1399.99.

How do they work?

Tasers fire two small metal dart-like conductors which are connected to the gun by a 6 metre copper wire. When the darts hit a person, they deliver a 50,000 volt electric shock that disrupts the control of muscles, causing incapacitation and involuntary muscle contractions. Some Tasers also have a ‘drive stun’ function, which means the gun can be held directly against the target and arcked without firing the darts, causing pain but not incapacitation of the target. Last year Britain’s Independent Police Complaints Commission said it had major concerns about the use of Tasers in ‘drive stun’ mode, as it was purely a means of torture. A police spokesman said though this function could be used on New Zealand Taser models, police tactics and training predominantly taught probe deployment.

Who uses them in New Zealand?

Frontline police response can now carry tasers. Previously the weapons could only be accessed from a locked box in police vehicles. The new Zealand police already have about 1000 tasers, with another 400 to 600 being bought. Between March 2010 and december 2014, police showed a Taser 3656 times and discharged a Taser 542 times. In June 2012, 4,252 police were certified to use a Taser. Both models used by police (X26 and X2) have a camera that activates when it is deployed. For police to carry a taser, they must be first aid, Police Integrated Tactical Training and Taser operator certified. Tasers can only be imported to New Zealand for use by police and are a restricted weapon inder the Arms Act.

How are they used in other countries?

Argentina: In 2010, a court temporarily ruled against the use of Tasers by police and this year it was decided the government would continue with this ban.

Australia: General duty federal and state police officers in most states and territories have access to Tasers. Heavy restrictions are in place surrounding their importation and ownership.

Czech Republic: “Children, girls, women, elderly and disabled citizens” are encouraged by Czech police to use Tasers as a “defensive resource” against violence or property crime.

United States: The frequent use of Tasers by police officers in the is US controversial, and the New York Times reported in May that Taser International had sold the devices to more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies. Tasers are allowed to be carried by police in every state with few exceptions. They can be legally carried (concealed or open) by consumers without a permit in 37 states.

United Kingdom: Tasers have been used by the UK police since 2003 and all officers authorised to carry Taser undergo a thorough three-day training programme. Taser use by the general public is illegal.

Taser incidents in New Zealand

March 2015: A 53-year-old man died in Napier after police tasered, pepper-sprayed and set dogs onto him.

October 2014: The Independent Police Conduct Authority found the use of a Taser on a man by police in front of his daughter amounted to an excessive use of force.

June 2014: The Independent Police Conduct Authority found the continued use of a Taser during the arrest of a Whakatane man in December, 2011 was excessive and contrary to law.

June 2013: A 33-year-old man was fatally shot, after being tasered by police in New Plymouth.

March 2013: The Independent Police Conduct Authority found Police were justified in using a Taser during an incident in Christchurch in 2010 after a large intoxicated man covered in blood refused to respond to police orders.

 

One thought on “HRF: Public should have a say in Taser decision”

  1. police abuse any and every power they think they have now plus many they have never had, as a foriegn registered corporation I cannot understand how they have any authority in New Zealand. There is the Maxim of Law stating that “we are all equal in law “so what ever one sector in the nation has the right to do so have the rest of the nation otherwise we are in a totalitarian state which is ruled via tyranny

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