You may have arrived here via a direct link to a specific post. To see the most recent posts, click HERE.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Zealand: Police Taser use to escape routine inquiry

March 18, 2010
By Derek Cheng, NZ Herald

Incidents of police firing the Taser device will no longer be routinely reviewed, as officers should not be deterred from using them for fear of being subject to a long investigation, Police Minister Judith Collins says.

Under the Taser trial, it was standard practice to investigate each instance when it was used. But Ms Collins said that would no longer be the case for the national roll-out, despite the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) thinking it should be standard practice.

"After the trial started, nobody actually made any complaints to IPCA about Tasers, so quite clearly there wasn't a problem," Ms Collins said.

"We're not going to have investigations every time a Taser is used. We get police officers shot, beaten up. I don't want these Tasers to be such a problem for police that they don't use them because they're worried they're going to get hauled through a huge IPCA investigation."

The national roll-out of Tasers, which deliver a 50,000-volt shock and are considered as a non-lethal alternative to guns, began this week.

By June, 3500 officers will be trained to use 733 Tasers across the police frontlines. Thirty-two Tasers were in use during the trial.

Ms Collins said every Taser had a video recorder that also recorded audio, which acted as a deterrent for misuse.

"Where there has been concern overseas, they didn't have cameras, and ours is a much more modern instrument."

She added that the IPCA was obliged to investigate any complaints, so people would still be free to lay complaints about Taser use if they wanted.

"The trial is officially over. It [the Taser] has absolute Government sanction and $10 million funding. But police are not going to be providing Tasers to their frontline troops and then having their frontline troops worry about using them."

She said in hindsight that fears of police misusing the Taser as a compliance tool were "a load of rubbish".

"It's already saved lives and police are doing a great job. I don't see the problem. If the alternative is the gunshot, I would say even a 50,000-volt electric shock from a Taser is a better result than a gunshot."

Meanwhile, Ms Collins said she supported Police Association concerns that growing disrespect for police could lead to more serious encounters, such as police assaults. The union says its members are reluctant to charge people for insulting behaviour because judges have not convicted in such cases, saying police should have to cope with insults as part of their job.

Ms Collins said she had to respect the independence of the judiciary, but added that police had the power to take people to police cells for a night for low-level offending.

"I am mostly concerned with the most serious levels of violence, but the lack of respect shown by people who should understand the need to uphold the law and respect for the law can be counterproductive."

No comments: