29 Aug 2008

Trial of Taser guns has been successful - report

5:03 pm on 29 August 2008

The police say a report on Taser stun guns has concluded that a year-long trial appears to have been successful.

The report's release follows Police Commissioner Howard Broad's decision on Thursday to approve the Taser as a tactical weapon option.

The evaluation report found officers usually only had to present the weapon to de-escalate a situation or control violent behaviour.

In the majority of incidents where a Taser was deployed, the subject either had a weapon or was thought to be carrying one.

The report says injuries to subjects and police officers were minor despite the serious circumstances of incidents.

It also says 88% of the officers surveyed thought the availability of the Taser had a positive impact on their performance.

Mr Broad said on Thursday he would take steps to reintroduce 32 Tasers into some stations in Auckland and Wellington. This would take several months while the Tasers are fitted with cameras and staff undertake refresher training.

Mr Broad said a bid would be made ahead of next year's budget to fund the weapons in eight other districts.

Serious concerns

The Green Party said on Thursday that Mr Broad's consultation with MPs was laughable and a travesty. MP Keith Locke has appealed to Mr Broad to wait for detailed submissions from political parties.

The weapons, which give out a charge of 50,000 volts, were trialled for a year from September 2006 and were fired 19 times. At the end of the trial, police said officers wanted to keep using the devices.

Two different organisations have raised their concerns about the use of Tasers.

The Mental Health Foundation says not enough research has been done into the effects of the weapons, and it fears people with mental illness could be killed through their use.

Its chief executive Judi Clements says it is not fully known if tasers interfere with medications and physical health conditions.

Meanwhile, the lobby group Global Peace and Justice says the full deployment of taser stun-guns within the police will lead to higher levels of violence on the street.

Mike Treen, from the Auckland branch of the group, says tasers are a dangerous escalation and the group will fully monitor each use of the device.

He believes the devices will start to be used as a matter of course, rather than as exceptions.