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People give opinions on police using stun guns: CLA responds

People give opinions on police
using stun guns: CLA responds

Police use of stun guns is under examination, after deaths and a horrrendous YouTube video of misuse in a police watchhouse. People have been giving us their opinions. Here’s a sample, with CLA’s response.

Dear Sir: Police & Tasers: why not for once back our police force? If idiots wish to charge police with knives they should be stopped with Taser or gun. Hope you never need the police to help you. Regards… Sydney.

Dear Sir: I have just observed you on the ABC, I have no problems that we must protect civil liberties, but it is inappropriate that you express an opinion the police officers across Australia need reigning in with the use of Tasers. Take 72 hours out of your office cubicle and walk and ride the streets with the officers in NSW or anywhere else and see what they confront, it is also important to note that you can express any opinion, but those on the front line are restricted by their employers…. Adelaide.

Dear Sir: I would like to know why no one (as far as I can find out) has been charged over the Taser deaths of the two men in Sydney these past few days. Are police accountable? Isnt the death of someone under these circumstances at least manslaughter?…Sydney

CLA responds:

Thank you all for your emails and thoughts on the use of stun guns by police.

A few points. The person mentioned who appeared on ABC TV is the spokesperson for another organisation…and not for Civil Liberties Australia (CLA). CLA has not made any media comment about the latest stun gun and death-by-police incidents that are subject to media reporting.

CLA’s views of the three latest incidents are:

  • The death in Sydney where a suspect is alleged to have charged police with knives appears, based on media reports so far, to be a circumstance in which it may have been appropriate to deploy a stun gun. If that proves to be the case, the police have CLA’s support. Why the death resulted is subject to further investigation by a coroner, as it should be,
  • The use of a stun gun by police in the East Perth watchhouse in 2008, where a defenceless man was zapped 13 times, is totally unacceptable and wrong. Police should be charged with assault.
  • The use of a batons, pepper spray and a stun gun in Sydney during Rugby League grand final celebrations is highly questionable. All such police use of violent methods needs investigating in full, which a coroner will do. CLA awaits the full report of the incident, from which a man died.

The last two incidents highlight the concerns CLA has about stun guns. Stun guns were supposed to be used in circumstances where a pistol would have been otherwise deployed. A stun gun can produce an outcome where a person dies, hence its use should be reserved for those serious and life threatening situations when a gun and bullets would be the alternative.

What is happening is that stun guns are being deployed as ‘control’ weapons used to force obedience to police orders when there is no life-threatening situation. Accordingly, CLA believes, if a death results a manslaughter charge against a police officer would have to be considered unless the use of such a lethal weapon was demonstrably appropriate and necessary (and that restraint could not have been achieved by other, less potentially-lethal methods).

CLA also notes that plenty of people are speaking in public on behalf of police officers including the Police Commissioner, Police union representatives, and police media. Often, police roundsmen and women appear to be police ‘spokespeople’ as well by the way they report police statements as gospel rather than the claimed situation as ‘spun’ by police.

Any individual police officer is free to speak publicly in general terms: we still have freedom of speech in Australia. CLA would welcome more police speaking out, so that a range of views can be considered. We acknowledge that they have very tough jobs, and that 99% of police do the right thing in difficult circumstances.

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