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.


Duffy said...

Do they have civilian review boards in Oz?

Seabee said...

In NSW we havethe Police Integrity Commission, set up to "detect, investigate and prevent police misconduct".

Generally the police investigate themselves.