Sunday, June 14, 2009

Case against tasers mounts

Following the most recent death associated with police use of a taser in Queensland, the evidence is mounting that the alternative offered by the weapon is too often an alternative lethality, not a means of subduing violent behaviour with the least harm. The false belief that tasers are a non-lethal option may lead police to use them more often in cases where they are threatened, despite the possibility of other de-escalation strategies that might well succeed in defusing conflict.

Following the tragic police shooting death of Tyler Cassidy in Northcote last December, there have been calls for the introduction of tasers, including by Tyler's mother and the police union. The latest fatality and others associated with tasers suggest their use in the Northcote case may not have reached a better outcome. The recent Victorian decision against the general adoption of tasers is therefore most welcome, though taser use within specialist units should also be closely scrutinised.

If we are to live in a civilised society, it is vital that we not give in to calls to further weaponise law enforcement in a manner that fatally multiplies the severity of outcomes, especially for those who are emotionally distressed or living with a mental illness.

While Victoria has committed to restricting tasers, their broader use nationally (e.g. QLD, SA, WA, NT and now NSW) is cause for great concern. Newsradio is conducting a poll on taser use by police, where you can vote to have your say online.

Update: Taser death: stun gun fired 28 times (ABC News)

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