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Sunday, November 16, 2008

CMC hits police report on taser trial

November 16, 2008
Michael McKenna, The Australian

A SECRET Queensland Police report on a year-long trial of tasers has been rejected by the Crime and Misconduct Commission as a whitewash designed to ensure minimum controls on the approved full-scale arming of more than 5000 frontline officers early next year.

The corruption watchdog - helping to draft guidelines for the use of the 50,000-volt stun guns - wrote a letter last week accusing police of delivering a biased evaluation on the controversial trial, which ended in June.

A spokeswoman for the Queensland Police Service said last night consideration was now being given to the CMC criticisms, but that the force's evaluation report of the trial was still in its draft stages.

The Bligh Government has been widely criticised after earlier this year announcing the widespread arming of police with tasers without waiting for the completion or findings of the secretive trial.

Across Australia, the weapons - which Amnesty International claims have killed 300 people in the US alone - are being introduced without parliamentary scrutiny and with little public debate.

The stoush between the two Queensland law-enforcement bodies comes amid a CMC investigation into police officers who in April held down and tasered a 16-year-old girl who had defied a move-on order because she was waiting for an ambulance to treat her sick friend.

The girl, who cannot be named, had a charge of obstructing police dismissed after the Children's Court last Friday ruled one of the two officers involved did not give adequate directions, under police move-on powers, before he and two private security guards held down the slightly built teenager, shot her in the thigh with the taser and then arrested her, initially on a charge of assaulting police.

The incident occurred on April 11, the first night of an extension of the police taser trial to general duty officers.

Closed circuit television footage of the incident, seen by The Australian, shows an apparent breach of the guidelines in tasering the slightly built juvenile - who was sitting down in a garden bed the time - where there was no risk of injury to police.

The incident involving the girl was one of the only "taser deployments" not publicly revealed during the trial by police.

One of the officers involved in the incident told the Brisbane Children's Court last week he had not been trained in using the weapon at close quarters or within a group situation.

The officer, who cannot be named, told the court that a safety bolt, needed to ensure the taser remained fastened to his belt, was not available when he armed himself with the weapon for his patrol that night.

The taser and its holster was kicked off during the skirmish with one of the 16-year-old's friends and fell to the ground among a group of teenagers he had ordered to move on.

The two officers now face disciplinary action.

The police ethical standards unit is investigating the incident and is considering the findings of the Children's Court.

"This review process identified issues with the deployment, and steps were taken to address these issues by providing additional training to the officers involved, and to review procedures to ensure such issues were addressed," the police said in a statement.

Police in every state and territory are using the devices - deemed by the UN to be instruments of torture - although Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and the ACT restrict them to specialist squads.

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