Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shock, horror. Police misuse Tasers.

Surely no-one was naive enough to believe that if police were issued with Tasers they wouldn't use them in place of negotiation?

Why bother to try to talk someone into doing as you tell them when you can simply Taser them into submission.

The misuse of the weapon has been constantly in the news since the death of Roberto Curti back in March.  Now the NSW Ombudsman has reviewed 556 cases of police using Tasers between June and November 2010. 

While he found inappropriate use in a minority of case, that's an awful lot of tasering in a six month period. 556 timers in 183 days means that three times a day, every day, people are tasered by NSW police.

The Ombudsmans's report included video of some of the cases and the blatant misuse couldn't be more obvious.

For example, a man kneeling on the floor, hands behind his head, facing the police. Completely submissive.

The police officer is screaming "ON THE FLOOR! ON THE FLOOR!. The man is on the floor for God's sake! He's on his knees.

The officer presumably wanted him to lie on the floor, but he didn't say so.

So he shouted "Taser, Taser, Taser" and shot the man with the Taser.

Harmless, submissive, not threatening in any way.

That's just one of 27 cases where the Ombudsman found inappropriate use and there were 53 cases where a Taser was armed and drawn but not used.

You know, it takes my memory back to bad bushfires a few years ago. I remember a TV report showing police turning residents back when they wanted to go to their homes to fight the fires. One man argued and the officer reached for his gun.  He didn't draw it but the threat was evident and the homeowner retreated. Completely inappropriate behaviour by the policeman.

I'm also reminded of the shooting of a mentally ill man in Sydney in 2009. Sergeant Sheree Bissett shouted "Taser, Taser Taser" but had drawn her pistol and shot him dead.

Paramedics in the room said the man was non-threatening and you'd be excused for thinking it was another  inappropriate Tasering gone wrong.

The Ombudsman said that  existing procedures for Taser use were 'unclear, confusing or silent on some important areas'.

I'd say that using them three times a day is plenty confirmation of that.

Regardless of the situation - compliant person, person running away, person handcuffed, person already capsicum sprayed, officer in no danger - if the person doesn't instantly obey a screamed order, police go for the Taser.

The case that brought Taser use into the news was the death of Roberto Curti, although as that was in March it was outside the period of the Ombudsman's review.

Curti was running away, police were in no danger. There were eleven officers all over him. He had three cans of capsicum spray emptied into his face, he was hit with a police baton, he was Tasered fourteen times, including while he was on the ground, handcuffed.

A coroner's inquest is still to hand down its findings into his death.

While the inappropriate use of the weapon is a small percentage of the number of  times ít's used, the daily use of it has to be of concern.

It's obviously replaced negotiation, conversation, reasoning.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fisher polluters

Local Sydney ABC radio has run a couple of reports about the sea eagle chick injured by swallowing a hook & line.

The nest is in Sydney Olympic Park, where a camera was set up some years ago to watch the pair of eagles and any chicks they had.

Recently one of the chicks was seen to be in some sort of trouble, so as the nest is 20 metres up a gum tree a cherry-picker was taken in so that rangers could investigate more closely.

They found that the chick had a large hook stuck halfway down its throat, plus a length of fishing line.

It ended well as the chick was operated on, the hook & line removed and it was returned safely to the nest.

The parents are feeding the chicks and one of the rangers said: "...they have obviously either taken a fish that had line or was discarded along the edge of the river."

She urged people to clean up all their fishing line, hooks and bait after fishing, as many birds accidentally eat the rubbish with dire results.

Some hope.

This area is full of waterways - sea, lagoons, lakes - and we have beach fishing, rock fishing, fishing from boats, from lake and lagoon banks. There are a lot of what we must now call 'fishers' and far too many of them demonstrate they're little more than vandals and polluters.

I've seen them swinging large fish over their heads and smashing their heads on the rocks. I've seen them slicing and gutting live fish as soon as they pull them from the water.

A few weeks ago on Terrigal beach I saw a swimmer trying to help a seagull that was caught in line and drowning. 

Everywhere there's rubbish left by the fishers. Especially line, metres and metres of it, but also hooks, weights and plastic bags.

I regularly pick up rubbish they abandon on the rock platforms and put it safely in the bins.

Radical action to get it under control is way overdue.

The ABC report, and links, are here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Safety barriers?

There was a crash on the M4 yesterday involving a couple of trucks and three or four other vehicles.

The biggest problem seemed to be a totally inadequate and unsafe central 'safety barrier'.

One of the trucks hit the concrete barrier and simply scattered it across three lanes, the truck crossing onto the oncoming lanes and hitting a car.

Photo: Janie Barrett Sydney Morning Herald
There's an urgent need for an an investigation into the use of these patently unsafe barriers. They obviously need to be replaced with a barrier that actually does what it's intended to do - keep vehicles travelling in opposite directions away from each other.  Not only on the M4 but anywhere else they've been used.
And the people responsible for recommending and approving the use of these useless concrete blocks need to be held accountable and fired.
But that's a fantasy world of course. In our real world the concrete will be put back in place, there'll be no investigation and the incompetent morons responsible for it will simply carry on as they are.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mutual loathing

The federal political scene is getting more and more personal, the mutual dislike between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott being made obvious.

"Misogyny" is being thrown about, routinely used to describe Abbott.

As so often these days, a wrong word is used.

It means 'woman hater' and I really don't accept that's an accurate description of the Mad Monk.

Like his mentor John Winston Howard he has a nineteen-fifties mindset, which he's trying to reconcile with living in the twenty-first century. As a result he puts out conflicting messages.

Wheeling Mrs Abbott out to tell us he was really warm and cuddly I thought was a pointless exercise.

You wouldn't expect her to say anything else, and her version of Tony may well be what she and their daughters see. But it's not the image he projects to the rest of the country.

For years he was Howard's attack dog. He's naturally belligerent and aggressive. He has an unfortunate strutting, swaggering walk. His body language and speech delivery is aggressive.

Nothing Mrs Abbott tells us will change the impression that gives us.

Misogynyst he's not though, and I wouldn't even say he generally has a problem dealing with women.

The real problem is his obvious loathing of Julia Gillard. In a tied election she out-politicked him to beat him to the job he desperately wanted, and it's obvious he can't handle that.

News of Australia around the world is usually nothing more than crocodiles, bushfires or Great Barrier Reef destruction. To have political stories appearing is very rare but Gillard's anti-Abbott rant in parliament the other day has hit the headlines all over. The comment is just about all positive too, she's a real hit internationally.

Our papers cover it and the fallout extensively too. Problem is, our media ignores the important stuff that's going on in parliament and only reports the personal abuse, scandals like Slipper/Thomson - the gossip.

The important stuff that's happening, such as policy, bills being passed, is ignored as though none of it is happening.

More balanced and extensive reporting of what's actually happening would be of real benefit.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Free feed

It's much easier than swimming around trying to catch your own fish.

Friday, October 05, 2012

The fires are here

Two rainy years means we have a lot of greenery, the landscape looking very lush.

For about the last right weeks we've had no rain so the greenery has dried out and turned into fuel for bushfires.

Yesterday and today the temperature has been in the thirties celcius and today there have been very strong winds. Perfect fire weather.

We have two on the Central Coast, this one I saw from Terrigal:

At Wyee a fire that started yesterday was brought under control but has reignited. The Rural Fire Service says Wyee is  'Watch & Act' status. Their website advises:
Current Situation
The fire started yesterday in the area around Wyee Road. Under hot and windy conditions today, the fire is burning more intensely.

Firefighters are working to protect properties in Rutleys Road where homes are under threat due to the southerly winds.

More serious is the Pretty Beach fire, which has jumped containment lines and is threatening property.

The RFS has issued an Emergency Warning. Their website says:  An Emergency Alert telephone warning has been sent to homes in the area and Police are undertaking controlled evacuations on High View Road.

Fifteen minutes ago the situation was:

Current Situation

The fire is burning in Very High fire danger conditions and is expected to impact on properties any time in the next two hours.
Under these conditions, fires are uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast-moving. Embers will be blown up to 4km ahead of the fire, creating spot fires that will move quickly and in different directions. These spot fires may threaten your home earlier than the predicted main fire front.
It looks like we're in for a long, bad fire season.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The grass is greener...

I was reading the other day that the explosion of greenery caused by the last two years of rain has also caused an explosion in the number of feral animals.

It's the natural order of things - an increase in food supply means an increase in animal numbers.

One of the feral problems we have of course is rabbits.

Cute, cuddly they may be but they aren't native, they breed like, well, like rabbits, and they cause huge problems.

Over the past few weeks for the first time ever I've been seeing them in our garden.

A very big one, a medium size one and yesterdfay three little ones.

What I don't understand is what's attracting them to the garden. It was a jungle when we got back after six years away, so I've stripped it right back to virtually bare earth so that I can re-plant.
Just the other side of the back fence is empty land, full of grass and other green stuff.

Yet they ignore that, preferring to squeeze under the fence and scratch around for the odd bit of weed.

I know about 'the grass being greener on the other side of the fence' but we don't have any bloody grass!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Enough is enough

A couple of things making news that we could really do without.

First, the bigger of the two stories, by media coverage and public involvement, is the Alan Jones saga.

Actually, I suggest that it's less about one shock jock than it is about the toxic nature of comment surrounding our political life.

The Parrot has a history of bigotted, biased, inflamatory ranting. His open contempt for the PM - and the toxic atmosphere - I posted about  here  last year.

He makes no secret of his hatred for the Prime Minister but he went way too far this time, causing outrage by saying her recently deceased father 'died of shame because of his daughter's lies'.

He was a great supporter, by the way, of John Winston Howard. He of never-ever a GST, children overboard, core and non-core promises, troops in Iraq while he was denying that a decision had been made to join the invasion forces, broken promises to hand over power to Peter Costello.  No fury from Jones about lies then.

This latest attack on Julia Gillard was a typical smug, smart-arse comment from the dinosaur that plays well with his far-right audience, but it was an insult too far for a huge number of people.

So far, 80,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that advertisers withdraw from his show on radio 2GB. Many have; others which haven't are being bombarded on their Facebook pages to do so.

The people responsible for the toxicity, like Jones, won't stop unless there's a real, sustained public backlash.

The shock jocks will still have their audience of like-minded dinosaurs but maybe the withdrawal of advertising dollars will give their employers reason for thought.

And if the bad poll results for Tony Abbot are maintained maybe he'll pull his head in too. Although with his obviously belligerent, personality - shown by his position as Howard's attack dog and his aggressive  tone in opposition - I doubt it. But maybe the electorate's dislike of him will give his party reason for thought.

Let's hope the pressure is maintained to take us back to sensible, reasoned, adult political debate.

The second story is the continuing mistreatment of animals involved in our live export trade.

"AUSTRALIAN sheep have been clubbed, stabbed and buried alive during a crude cull of animals in Pakistan", the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

We know how animals are treated in the places we export live animals to. When it gets media coverage there's pretended surprise at what's going on, pretended horror about it.

Then there are squeals about the jobs and money we'd lose if we stopped the live export trade.

We have laws to protect animals in this country and in my opinion they should apply across the board. That includes not allowing animals to be exported live, which exposes them to a stressful, dangerous journey followed by slaughter not in accordance with our laws.

If you want to read more, the mistreatment of sheep is here  and a couple worth reading on Jones are here  and  here.