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Monday, December 17, 2007

NZ government, not police, should make taser decision

December 17, 2007
Press Release: Green Party

Green MP Keith Locke has written to the Prime Minister urging the Government, not the police, to make the decision over whether Tasers should be brought into the police armoury.

Police Minister Annette King has said it is an operational matter, which she need not be involved in. The police are currently reviewing the year-long Taser trial, which finished at the end of August.

"There are two main reasons why the decision should not be left to the police," Mr Locke, Green Party Police Spokesperson says. "Firstly, the Taser is a dangerous weapon, which has been associated with the death of close to 300 people in North America between 2001 and 2007, as Amnesty International reported last week. "Secondly, there are major questions of international law to be resolved. Taser use could breach New Zealand's adherence to the United Nations Convention against Torture. Last month the UN Committee against Torture determined that the Taser 'constituted a form of torture'.

"The weapon certainly inspires fear, but the Government should consider whether this is good for police/community relations. There is a temptation for police to threaten disorderly offenders with a Taser even when they present no physical danger. Last week the Campaign Against the Taser reported many such cases in the year-long Taser trial.

"Taser use remains controversial in countries where it has been introduced. There is currently huge debate in Canada following the death of a man at Vancouver Airport after he was tasered. As a result the Canadian police complaints authority has urged police to sharply curtail the use of Tasers.

"The Government should not be intimidated by the Police Association, which is lambasting all Taser critics and insisting that a decision on its introduction should be made by police alone. This is not an operational matter, akin to what sort of cars they should drive or the look of their uniforms, and the Government cannot stand aside," Mr Locke says.

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