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Friday, June 06, 2008

New Zealand: Chief Ombudsman says the police have wrongly withheld information from the public about a trial of taser stun guns

The Chief Ombudsman says the police have wrongly withheld information from the public about a trial of taser stun guns.

A group opposed to the police use of the weapon, Campaign Against the Taser, laid a complaint with the Ombudsman following last year's trial. It says a large amount of factual information was kept from the public by police on the grounds that it personally identified those involved.

However, a spokesperson for the group, Marie Dyhrberg, says the information has been requested to assess the trial, including the extent to which police followed their own guidelines. Ms Dyhrberg says the Chief Ombudsman recognises the information should be made available, because there is a very strong public interest in the transparency of the scheme, and whether or not tasers ought to be introduced.

In a letter to the group, the Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem upheld their complaint, stating the original police summaries of the trial are extremely brief and sanatised.

She is recommending the police release the information.

JUNE 7, 2008 - UPDATE

WHY DOES THIS ALL SOUND SO FAMILIAR?!?! Oh I remember now - the RCMP here in Canada pulled the same crap.

Police to publish more details on Taser use

The Police say they will follow the Chief Ombudsman's recommendation to release information excluded from the year long Taser trial. The Chief Ombudsman has criticised police for "sanitising" incident reports by withholding information.

Taser opponents say the police's climb-down is too little too late.

The 12- month test of the 50,000-volt Taser stun gun ended last August. Police records show during that time, Tasers were drawn on 128 occasions and discharged 20 times.

Summaries of every incident involving a Taser are posted on the Police website, but in her report the Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem says: "Many of the summaries are extremely brief, and have the overall effect of sanitising the original reports."

Green Party police spokesman Keith Locke says this amounts to police secrecy. "I think the police started out this trial with the impression that we definitely need the Taser, and we don't really need to justify ourselves too much. "The Ombudsman pulled the Police up and says 'you've got to give a full account to the public'."

Mr Locke points to a number of incidents where people were shot with the Taser because they failed to cooperate with police. "The Taser is only supposed to be used according to police specifications in really dangerous situations, not where someone jiggling around and being a bit slow to allow the hand cuffs on," he says.

"What information has been published by the police is scant, it is misleading and it is very, very brief in terms of the actual incidents themselves and what the public ought to be shown and consider if they're going to be part of a decision whether to arm the police again," says Marie Dyhrberg of the Campaign Against The Taser group.

But Police deny the brevity of the incident reports had anything to do with a lack of transparency, although there was not much transparency today. No one from Police national headquarters was available for comment, but in a statement Police said they believe strongly in free and frank reporting of all incidents. They also said they will now be releasing all Taser-related information to the public.

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