Topic Area: NSW Police Force and Tasers Focus Question: Why is the NSW Government distribute Tasers to the general police force of NSW, and what is the NSW public opinion? Purpose of Research: To answer our focus question by investigating Tasers, the NSW Government’s introduction of Tasers and the opinions of numerous political and police figures, bodies and the general public opinion. Hypothesis: That the NSW Police Force requires a non-lethal additional choice of force. That the public is satisfied with the government’s proposal to issue Tasers.
Primary Research Investigation: Interviews Barry O’Farrell – NSW Opposition Leader Tony Kelly – NSW Minister for Police Peter Remfrey – NSW Police Association Secretary Jeff Bell – Inspector and Duty Officer Chatswood Police Survey(45 Responses) Barker College Senior School Students Barker College Staff
Background The NSW Government has decided to issue Tasers to the NSW Police Force. The NSW Liberal Party have urged the Labor Government to introduce Tasers since 2008. The Government announced the proposal on June 14 2009 however 58% of surveyed people were unaware of the proposal. This decision is considered to be one of the most controversial in the 147 year history of the Police Force. This decision has been criticised by major Human Rights Watchdogs like Amnesty International and has been the subject of numerous disagreements in public opinion.
We chose to investigate the issue because it is a current and controversial issue that will affect the NSW population. Our main focus for investigation was: Public opinion Previous Trials (international and national) Economic Aspect Abuse and Regulation Crime Regulation and Deterrents Health Risks and Concerns Training Taser Proposal and Details
Current Defence Weapons: OC (Capsicum) Spray Batons Glock Pistol 18 500 Employees in the NSW Police Force 15 500 Officers on Duty 3 000 Administrative Members
Current Taser Usage: Internationally: United States, United Kingdom, France 260 000 used by 11 500 law enforcement agencies Australia: WA – frontline officers have had Tasers since 2006 NT – all officers have had Tasers since 2003 QLD - introduced 3000 Taser units to policemen in July 2008 VIC, TAS, SA, ACT- restrict the use of Tasers to special tactical response unit NSW – riot squad and senior officers
What is a Taser? A Taser is a hand-held device that emits electricity via two wires and barbs that strike a person a police officer want to subdue. The dart-like electrodes remain connected to the main unit by a conductive wire. A replaceable cartridge (ammunition) containing the wires and barbs needs to be replaced after each use. It is a conducted energy device (CED) classified by police as a ‘less than lethal’ weapon. It is generally classified on a similar level as capsicum spray on the ‘use of force’ continuum. NSW Tasers NSW Police will be issued the X26 model of the Taser, which is the latest available Taser model. The X26 Taser is developed and manufactured by Taser International.
Function: 50 000 volt charge that weakens to 12000 volts at time of impact Fires up to 7.6 metre, with an effective range of 4.7m. One shot is able to immobilise a subject for at least 10 seconds. The X26 Taser is able to penetrate clothing up to 2 inches thick. Drive stun: A feature which can be used as a ‘pain compliance’ technique without necessarily immobilising the person. This mode requires the Taser to be directly attached to the body of the offender causing localised pain to that area without having a significant impact on the central nervous system. This feature can be used without having a cartridge installed. All Taser units have an inbuilt camera, called a ‘TASERCAM’, which records video and audio footage of a situation. It is automatically turned on whenever a Taser is turned on, not necessarily used. This feature is an essential part in the regulation and monitoring process however has flaws.
Effect of a Taser The Taser’s electrical current affects the central nervous system which results in neuro-muscular incapacitation or uncontrollable muscle contraction and pain to subdue or immobilise the subject. The most intense effects of the Taser only last for the duration that the electricity is applied, but the subject may then have aching or tingly muscles and feel dazed, shocked, confused or lethargic. The X26 Taser delivers 0.0021 amps of electricity to the body. A defibrillator delivers an electrical charge sever hundred times stronger than this and it requires approximately 1-2 amps of electrical charge to kill an average person. History Stun Guns were first developed in the late 1960’s Tasers have been used in the US for over 27 years.
Why has this Proposal come about? In addition to numerous other factors the Governments believes there is a large gap in the range of defence weapons deployed for police. Capsicum spray has been proven ineffective to some people and is only effective above the torso Batons can only be used in close proximity to an offender. The biggest problem is that the previous two non-lethal weapons can not always immobilise the criminal. Therefore police are forced to resort to the firearm. Tasers would fill this gap with the guarantee of immobilising the perpetrator with a “less-than-lethal force” Opposition leader Barry O'Farrell states, “[issuing Tasers] are a part of equipping the police with the resources required to do their job” The preferred target zones and effective zones of police weapons
NSW Government announced in June 2009: $10 million will be invested to provide Taser Stun Guns to the NSW Police Force, as part of the Government’s $2.6 billion Police budget. 1 962 Tasers will be rolled out to equip frontline police officers with Tasers across the state. One per patrol car or pair of frontline officers. The proposal will be executed over a period of 18 months, such that all first response police officers will carry Tasers as part of their standard equipment by early 2011. It will supplement: 50 Taser units that have been trialled by the NSW Riot Squad and Tactical Operations Unit for 2 years. 229 units issued to senior officers (Inspectors and Sergeants Rank) last year Thus, there will be a total of 2241 units used by NSW Police after the proposal is fully implemented.
Training: Training started July 1 st 2009 All officers undergo eight hours training must receive 80% or more in a written test must renew their license annually. The aim of training is to ensure that officers know: How to use a Taser appropriately Of the implications of misuse The situations in which Taser use is appropriate
Regulation & Accountability: Taser use will be governed by strict ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ (SOP) which clearly outline situations in which its use is appropriate and how Tasers are to be safely used. It will be regulated and monitored using the TASERCAM.
Global Studies Presentation Max Fulton, Stu Colderick and Bo Seo
PROCON The TASER company has designed the models used in law enforcement to be conspicuous and easily recognisable Visible and night, the mere sight of a Taser has seen the perpetrator surrender Police Minister Tony Kelly says that the sight of a deployed Taser resolved the conflict 55% of the time The findings of the NSW trial show even more optimistic numbers with offenders capitulating 65% of the time Only 51% of surveyed subjects believed that Tasers are an effective deterrent against crime Many people (over 58%) surveyed were not even aware of the Taser policy Barry O’Farrell: “The biggest deterrent to crime occurring in a community is police visibility not necessarily being in the possession of a taser”
PROCON Tasers have proved themselves an effective weapon in decreasing the number of assaults on police officers: WA saw a decline of 40% Florida saw a 93% decrease The police force aims to halve the 3000 assaults directed against police officers per annum Most critics do agree that tasers will reduce assault against police but are mainly concerned about the implication this may have on the people’s health
PROCON Tasers are advocated as a non-lethal weapon without serious implication on someone’s health The United Kingdom Defence Scientific Advisory council concludes that: “the risk of life-threatening or serious injuries from the X26 is very low” (2005) The United department of Justice found that there is “no conclusive medical evidence within the state of current research that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death from the direct effects of Taser exposure” (2008) PANSW claims that the only injury that may result from the Taser are “injury from the resulting fall or the barb of the Taser that may have to be removed by the GP” No effect on cardiac function and pacemakers were observed There are serious concern that overuse or use against more vulnerable members of society may lead to serious health implications and even fatallity Amnesty International claimed that around 350 people had died after contact with a taser The ombudsman also voices concern: “While it may be relatively safe to use a Taser on a healthy adult, the jury is still out on their use on a range of other people” The U.S. department of Justice found that discharge against “small children, the elderly, those with heart disease or pregnant women” would have greater risks associated with it Taser international also warns that repeated or continuous discharge “has not been extensively studied and may increase the risk of inducing an adverse effect”
Autopsies found that in: 78% of cases of fatality, high levels of illicit substance abuse were detected 54% of cases had previously existing cardio-vascular conditions 75% showed evidence of excited delirium It is the government’s view that these statistics show that: excited delirium, substance abuse and alcohol abuse are more likely to have caused the death than the taser itself.
PROCON A decrease in the number of assaults directed against police would mean: Less police injuries Savings from workers’ compensation claims and lost days from duty The Police Association estimates a direct saving of more than $32 million saved per annum in NSW alone As to the issue of pay: Negotiations are under way with the PANSW for higher wages for police Some do not even believe that there is a problem with Police wages Tony Kelly: “The NSW Police Force is well paid; all officers are among the top third of income owners in Australia and their pay has increased by 91% since 1995 $10 million too much – already shortage, there have been fine strikes across the state Bell states: “To say since you think it’s [taser] such a good idea, you can forgo a pay rise for twelve months… I don’t think that’s the right thing to do” The best outcome is a well paid and well equipped police but according to Bell it would be wrong to put it [the decision] on the police 60% of the surveyed people believe that the proposal is not an effective use of tax payer money
PROCON Supporters of the issue acknowledge the possibility of abuse yet seem confident in the training and the responsibility of the NSW police Tony Kelly: Tasers have been employed successfully by certain NSW police force commands over the last 6 years. The SOP’s governing the use of tasers in NSW is second to none Barry O’Farrell: As long as human beings are police officers there will be some small number of them who will use weapons inappropriately. That’s why you have the regulation, the checks and balances to weed them out 41% of those surveyed are not comfortable or do not feel safe with the police handling tasers The trials held in Queensland found the following: Tasers were used 170 times in a period of one year. This translates to roughly 3 incidents in a week Out of these uses: 75% of the subjects were unarmed 25% were shot more than the recommended amount of one discharge 17% were already handcuffed when tasered (drive stun mode) Critics, including the Greens believe that the data “show there is a real problem with overuse of the weapon an dits potential to become the weapon of choice for minor offences” (Hon. Sylvia Hale 2009)
PROCON TASER CAM and audio recording facilities, to be analysed by the Deputy Commissioner of Field operations will hold officers accountable TASER International boasts that “a picture is worth a thousand words” TASER International states: Video footage of incidents have exonerated officers of charges 96% of the time It provides absolute proof on which regulation can be exercised and necessary changes made TASERCAM has been obscured in many cases: A man in Oxford St. Sydney was Tasered as he compiled with an officer’s request to move onto the foot path. The TASERCAM was obscured. Instantly discharged Tasers will hold only the footage of the perpetrator being stunned Footage is also ineffective in the cases of ‘drive stun’ where footage is too limited / zoomed in Amnesty International claims this to be a “loophole”
Use: “Police can use a Taser when a person is an imminent threat to police, themselves or a member of the public, but when the use of a firearm is not justified.” Tasers are a guaranteed disabling agent, that can be targeted anywhere on the body, which is effective on all people. They are not to be used in larger crowds as it may heighten tension. It will provide the officer with another option along with the baton, capsicum spray and a firearm for controlling dangerous situations or violent suspects. A Taser has an effective range of 4.6 metres. Taser use on moving offenders may be ineffective with a decreased chance of both barbs connecting.
Advantages Deterrent: The TASER company has designed the models used in law enforcement to be conspicuous and easily recognisable Visible and night, the mere sight of a Taser has seen the perpetrator surrender Police Minister Tony Kelly says that the sight of a deployed Taser resolved the conflict 55% of the time The findings of the NSW trial show even more optimistic numbers with offenders capitulating 65% of the time
Advantages Protects Police officers Police officers are assaulted an average of 3000 times per year. Tasers have been proven to dramatically decrease the number of assaults on officers. Western Australia has seen a decline of 40% since the roll out of Taser. Such is the case in the United States, Florida police had a 93% decrease The roll out hopes to halve the number of assaults on NSW police A reduction of police injury means savings in worker’s compensation claims and lost days on duty. The Police Association (2009) estimates the direct saving of more than $32 million per year
Police are currently being injured at 7 times the rate of an average worker in NSW. The use of weapons (knives and guns) in violent confrontations with the police has become more prevalent.
Global Studies Presentation Max Fulton, Stu Colderick and Bo Seo
Barry: Its all very well for amnesty to oppose the proposal but they have failed to propose an alternative You are leaving police with guns and batons where the most of the misuse is said to occur It is important to give them the resources to defend our state our people and themselves from crime Not the police’s responsibillity to know what they’ve been doing – to interview about it. No time