Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Ombudsman highlights Taser misuse -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Ombudsman highlights Taser misuse
Barbara Miller reported this story on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 12:10:00

ELEANOR HALL: A report by the New South Wales Ombudsman has found that police officers are using Tasers inappropriately once a week on average.

The Ombudsman Bruce Barbour says that's not acceptable and is recommending significant changes to Taser operating procedures, training and accountability measures.

One of the recommendations is that the stun guns are only applied to any one individual for a total of 15 seconds.

Bruce Barbour is speaking here to Barbara Miller.

BRUCE BARBOUR: We identified a number of misuses when we reviewed a large sample of Taser use by police. Those misuses ranged from non-compliance with the operating procedures through to what was potentially behaviour which was unlawful in the circumstances because there was excessive rather than reasonable force used on those circumstances.

BARBARA MILLER: Those incidents where you deemed that the Taser was used inappropriately, you identified 27 of them in a six-month period. That's about one a week. Isn't that far too many?

BRUCE BARBOUR: That is far too many and that's exactly what we've said. So on the one hand our review of Taser incidents has demonstrated that in most cases, police are operating reasonably and they are following the procedures the way they should.

However, you cannot have effectively one person per week being a victim of a Taser shooting when they do not deserve to be so and that shooting is outside of the permitted purposes for which Tasers are supposed to be used.

The operating procedures are not clear. They need to be much clearer, they need to be rewritten, they need to be better ordered and they also need to set out where use is restricted and also where use is prohibited.

BARBARA MILLER: If it's that strong, that the operating procedures need to be rewritten, shouldn't Taser use be halted in the meantime?

BRUCE BARBOUR: No I don't think that's necessary because the results of our investigation demonstrate that in the vast majority of cases, police are using them effectively and they're using them in circumstances where they are warranted.

So I'm not calling for Tasers to be stopped altogether at this stage, but these recommendations I'm making will go a long way to ensuring that the community can have trust in the way in which police are using Tasers.

BARBARA MILLER: Can you just give me one of the examples where you deemed that the use of a Taser was inappropriate?

BRUCE BARBOUR: Well a number of the examples included cases where somebody was being compliant with the police officer's instructions. One of the examples we use was a man who was kneeling, he had no shirt on, he had his hands behind his back, and because he was not obeying an instruction to get down on the ground, the police Tasered him.

BARBARA MILLER: Now you've recommended that a Taser should never be applied to any one individual for more than 15 seconds in total and that it shouldn't be used in the drive stunning mode, that's when you press it directly into the skin if someone is in handcuffs.

Both those situations apply to the case of Roberto Laudisio Curti, the young Brazilian who died earlier this year. He was Tasered for a total of around a minute and many times in drive stun mode. What can we read about your thinking on that case from those recommendations?

BRUCE BARBOUR: Well I'm not in a position to speak directly about that case because the matter is still before the coroner and she's yet to hand down her findings and independently to her, we are oversighting the police investigation of that matter.

What I can say is that we believe and I have made recommendations to this effect, that police should not use Tasers on someone fleeing, they should not use Tasers on somebody who is handcuffed and they should not use Tasers in drive stun mode unless, in each of those cases, there is exceptional circumstances.

What I've also recommended is that at no time should it be acceptable to Taser somebody for more than 15 seconds. A single Taser cycle is 5 seconds, which means that if a person is Tasered more than three times or for more than 15 seconds continuously, that should be an automatic breach of the SOPS (standard operating procedures) and it should be acted upon against that officer.

BARBARA MILLER: If Roberto Laudisio Curti then was Tasered for around one minute in total, you would expect that disciplinary action would be taken.

BRUCE BARBOUR: Well as I said I'm not going to be discussing that case, we'll be reporting on that publicly after the coroner's findings.

BARBARA MILLER: But if you say only 15 seconds is acceptable, then you would have to agree that one minute is completely unacceptable.

BRUCE BARBOUR: As I said I'm not going to comment on that case.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the New South Wales Ombudsman Bruce Barbour, speaking to Barbara Miller.

The New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has welcomed the Ombudsman's report.

Commissioner Scipione says police have already made a number of improvements to the way Tasers are used as a direct consequence of consultation with the Ombudsman.

The commissioner says the police force will respond formally to the 46 recommendations in the Ombudsman's report in two months.