Peace Movement Aotearoa   |   The NZ Police stun gun trial

Taser decision pending

1 January 2008

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After trialling the taser for 16 months a police decision on the future of the stun gun is just days away.

The decision rests with Commissioner Howard Broad but opponents say the trial has been a sham.

Throughout the year-long trial police were at pains to show the taser is safe. The stun gun delivers a 50,000 volt shock that police claim immobilises the victim for several seconds - without permanent damage.

"I'm confident the taser is a safe device," Superintendent John Spence from police headquarters said in September 2006.

The taser was used 19 times during the trial and police say it was used safely and effectively.

But Edward Savai'i says he was tasered twice during a domestic dispute in November 2006 and it left lasting marks on his lawn and his health.

"I still have chest pains, cramps, I have stomach pain, and I also have a sore lower back," says Savai'i.

Even police have felt its force and figures obtained under the Official Information Act revealed three police officers were injured while training to use the taser. Two suffered flesh wounds and one was dazed after falling and hitting his head.

It is that sort of incident that critics say has caused deaths overseas. Marie Dyhrberg from the Campaign against the Taser says people are going to be tasered in stairwells, on tops of buildings and on concrete roads and paths.

Even police bosses admitted to ONE News the stun gun could kill.

"While it's not possible to substantiate the odds, the taser, as with any other use of force, does have a level of risk," Spence told ONE News in December 2006.

There have also been cases where police have heavily outnumbered the offender but still used the taser.

Michael Bott from the Council for Civil Liberties said in August that he has grave concerns.

"We're dealing with such a powerful device that can basically stun a person with up to 50,000 volts, and we give that to police recruits for example now who have trouble with spelling and basic numeracy," Bott said.

But rank-and-file police are almost unanimous in wanting the taser. They point to the case of a man who was subdued with a taser after stabbing three children in a Lower Hutt house.

And Broad has dropped a strong hint that if police don't get tasers they may well end up fully armed.

"If we're not successful in this, then there are strong forces at play here that would want us to move towards a fully-armed police service," Broad said in October 2006.

His comments raised eyebrows and questions in parliament.

Police have already bought the stun guns at a cost of $50,000 and critics say that shows the trial is a sham. Police themselves admit they do not know what they would do with the tasers if they are not deployed.

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