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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Australia: Police say Taser misuse not widespread

July 15, 2010
ABC News

Western Australia's Assistant Police Commissioner Steve Brown says initiation rituals are not a part of the police force's culture.

A senior constable and a sergeant from Rockingham police station has been stood down on full pay following allegations they used Tasers as part of an initiation ritual or as punishment. Two junior constables also allegedly involved in the behaviour have been stood down from operational duties.

Mr Brown says the problem is not widespread. "It's a very small discrete number of people. This behaviour appears at this stage to be contained to within the Rockingham police station, it's not the entire contingent of police there at Rockingham," he said.

The Assistant Commissioner says the behaviour is not systemic within the police. "In 28 years I have not experienced in this agency any form of initiation. And I can say pretty much the same for my colleagues. It's something that we are surprised about and that we are taking very seriously," he said.


Police Union president Russell Armstrong is pushing for the officers not to be sacked. "We are disappointed that it's happened. They've let people down, including themselves," he said. "It's an isolated incident, it's not widespread and it's certainly not widespread as part of the wider community of WA Police."

Opposition police spokeswoman Margaret Quirk says the allegations have come as a shock given a recent review showed Tasers were being used appropriately by WA police. "If there is any evidence this is systemic then that is a matter of the gravest concern," she said. But Ms Quirk says it would be unfair for WA police to have their Taser access restricted. "By and large they are used appropriately, so I think we need to wait and see, we shouldn't be throwing the baby out with the bath water," she said.


Mr Brown says an internal investigation is expected to be completed within two weeks. He says the tip-off about the alleged behaviour came from within the station. "As always these investigations that we undertake and our internal affairs undertake are oversighted by the CCC (Corruption and Crime Commission) so we're very confident that there is some independence there in the investigation itself," he said.

In a statement, the Police Commissioner said he would not comment further until the investigation is complete.

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