NSW Ombudsman calls for freeze on Taser guns


Belinda Merhab
The Australian
November 20, 2008

THE NSW Ombudsman has recommended a two-year freeze on further roll-outs of Taser guns, saying police standards for their use are inadequate, and the health risks are unknown.

Bruce Barbour told state parliament yesterday that general-duties police, who were issued the stun guns last month, were using Tasers at a higher rate than special operations police, who began using them in 2002.

“It is clear the number of incidents where Tasers will be used in the future will increase significantly,” Mr Barbour said.

“There is already evidence of this. Tasers have been used on people on five occasions in the first two weeks of general-duties use. This compares with only 48 incidents over a five-year period” by special unit officers.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

The Ombudsman’s investigation found officers from special units had predominantly used Tasers from a distance, but in the first two weeks of use by general-duties officers, in four out of the five incidents the Tasers were used in drive-stun mode, where the gun is applied directly to skin or clothing.

The use of Tasers, which stun a victim by emitting a 50,000-volt electric shock, have been linked to heart complications and death.

Queensland police last week Tasered a 16-year-old girl who had ignored police instructions to move on, because she was waiting with a sick friend for an ambulance to arrive.

In another case, a 56-year-old NSW man who had threatened police with a frying pan died 12days after receiving three Taser shocks.

According to his death certificate, the man, who had heart disease, hepatitis C and schizophrenia, died of a heart attack.

Mr Barbour was unable to say whether the Taser played a role in the man’s death.

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