Police Association applauds Taser plan

01:43, Jan 31 2009
AIM: A graphic shows where police can use a taser gun on offenders in comparison with a firearm and pepper spray.

The Police Association has welcomed the decision to proceed with Taser use, but says the decision highlights police being used as political pawns.

Association president Greg O'Connor said the Taser decision reflected the "politicisation of police" and was a "cynical and calculated attempt to divert police and public attention from the Government's u-turn on the democratic rights of police officers".

He was referring to the Government's decision not to support the rights of police officers to stand for local councils.

Following last year's Taser trial, Police Commissioner Howard Broad has proposed that the controversial electrical stun guns go back to the trial areas and be used by selected front line staff. He wanted the views of MPs before making a final decision.

Mr O'Connor said the Taser roll-out was a "no-brainer" following the success of the trial, and considering the increasing violence faced by police officers on a daily basis.

But the only question was why the announcement has taken a year, Mr O'Connor said.

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"For the last two years, both the commissioner and the minister have insisted that the decision on Tasers was a decision solely for the commissioner.

"Yet now, almost a year to the day since the trial concluded, we have the minister announcing the decision in Parliament a day after the Government's backroom deal with New Zealand First to keep police off councils," Mr O'Connor said.

"This decision could have been made by the commissioner at any time since he received the trial evaluation in December last year."

Mr O'Connor said the decision should have been celebrated months ago as a step forward for public and police safety.

"Instead, the announcement can only be viewed with bitter irony as it highlights the politicisation of the highest levels of police, at a time when constables are being banned from participating in their own local community councils," Mr O'Connor said.

New Zealand First MP Ron Mark also welcomed the decision, but said he was puzzled by the sudden need for political approval.

There was no such hesitancy when the police adopted military style semi-automatic Bushmaster rifles over bolt action rifles earlier this year, he said.

Mr Mark said the decision approving the Taser was also a "no-brainer" and would attract undeserved and unwarranted criticism from the "hysterical anti-Taser lobby".

The police could be clearly trusted with the device, but there were concerns about restrictions in its use, he said.

Under Mr Broad's recommendations, only selected trained front-line staff could use tasers. They would not be carried by patrolling staff.

Assaults on police had increased from 57 in 1998-99 to 88 2006-07.

Police Minister Annette King said 930 police agencies worldwide used tasers.

She said they were faster and more effective dealing with aggressive individuals than pepper spray.

In a statement Green MP Keith Locke said arming police with tasers was a sad step.

"The Greens are very opposed to these painful and sometimes lethal stun guns being introduced into the police armoury."

After a year-long trial in Auckland and Wellington ended last year, police said Tasers were desperately needed because they could stop offenders without killing them.

But opponents of the weapon said they were dangerous and had killed people in the United States. The New Zealand guns deliver a lower voltage than those used in the US.

- With Dominion Post, NZPA