December 1, 2010
Sydney Morning Herald
Western Australia's police commissioner has announced a policy shift on Tasers, saying the stun guns should only be used when officers believe they are at risk of serious injury.
The change follows recent publicity over incidents in which police were deemed to have overstepped the mark in their use of tasers.
Karl O'Callaghan says the WA Police Professional Standards Division will also review police use-of-force incidents captured on CCTV to determine if officers' accounts of incidents match the tapes.
The policy change comes after charges against a Perth family were dropped after CCTV footage undermined the police case against them. The footage shown in the Perth Magistrates Court on Monday showed no evidence Ryan Walker, 24, had punched a plain-clothes officer, as police had alleged. An assault charge against him was dropped as were obstruction charges against his parents, Ken and Raelene Walker, who had questioned officers over their handling of a melee outside a Perth nightclub on January 16. Ms Walker sustained a broken ankle as she was taken from the scene by officers. The family is seeking an apology from police.
WA Police were heavily criticised earlier this year after video footage was released of unarmed man Kevin Spratt being tasered 13 times in East Perth Watch House in 2008 with nine officers present.
Mr O'Callaghan on Wednesday told reporters the new trial policy on Taser use meant officers had to believe they were at risk of serious injury before deploying the weapons.
That could include officers being attacked with a broken glass or some other type of weapon, he said.
"We are moving forward but what we are doing is making sure all of our processes are correct, because questions have been asked and I don't want those questions to continue; I want to answer them."
WA Premier Colin Barnett has apologised to the Walker family but says he retains confidence in the state's police force.
"These police men and women doing the day-to-day frontline work do need strong support and maybe do feel a little bit isolated at the moment, as there have been some situations that have gone wrong," he told reporters on Wednesday.
"Some mistakes have been made ... and maybe it's time to look at whether they do need to have some extra training in dealing with difficult situations they encounter on a daily basis."
Former WA deputy police commissioner Murray Lampard said the tasering of Mr Spratt was indefensible and the obstruction charges laid against the Walker family showed young officers lacked training.
Professor Lampard, who retired from the force in 2008, stressed the need for negotiation and communication skills training for young officers.
He said they needed to be trained in the importance of "verbal judo", conflict resolution and negotiation.
"When you're dealing with people, the community has an expectation that the police will act responsibly and will act appropriately and basically keep their oath of office to preserve life," Prof Lampard told ABC Radio.
"I think police need to, in certain circumstances, explore a number of options, to negotiate with people before deploying a weapon like a Taser."
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
December 1, 2010