Tasers more favoured by police

AIMEE GULLIVER
Last updated 18:00 11/07/2014

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Police are using Tasers more frequently in situations that may endanger police or public safety, a new report shows.

Police released a report today on the use of Tasers in 2013.

It showed they were deployed in 1090 incidents last year - compared to 925 in 2012.

The 2013 data indicated Tasers were used at an average of 91 events per month, up from an average of 77 a month in 2012.

Tasers were used less than other tactical options available to police, including handcuffs, physical force, pepper spray, batons and firearms, the report said.

Tasers, which hit offenders with a 50,000-volt shock, were deployed at 21 per cent of events requiring a tactical response from police.

Physical force was used in 41 per cent of situations, handcuffs in 38 per cent, and pepper spray in 27 per cent of incidents. Some events involved more than one tactical option being used.

Most people Tasers were deployed on in 2013 were men aged under 30. Maori accounted for 52 per cent of people tasered, Europeans for 31 per cent, and 14 per cent of people tasered were Pacific Islanders.

Police had to use more than one shot on individuals in situations where the Taser had insufficient effect on the person - in 33 events people were tasered twice, in 12 events the person was tasered three times, and on four occasions the person was hit with the Taser four times.

The youngest person tasered in 2013 was 15, while the oldest person was aged 69.

Tasers were among the least injury-causing tactical options used by police, the report said.

Excluding minor probe wounds, only 1 per cent of those it was used against during 2013 sustained further injury.

Of the 12 Taser-related injuries reported, four were categorised as "moderate", and two were categorised as "severe".

Superintendent Barry Taylor said it was "really pleasing" that Tasers were deployed in only 0.04 per cent of the 2.8 million recorded face-to-face interactions police had with the public last year.

"The data also shows that when used appropriately, the Taser continues to be a very effective tactical option for keeping our staff and the public safe," Taylor said.

"During 2013 it has again proven its powerful deterrent effect in de-escalating threatening and violent situations, backed by the fact that for every six times it was presented, it was discharged only once."

The report addressed Tasers being discharged, and also Tasers being shown to potential offenders. This was done when police or members of the public were verbally or physically threatened, or the threat of weapons was apparent.

In 83 per cent of the cases a Taser was shown, it was deemed effective in de-escalating the incident, the report said.

Taylor said release of the data would assist police and the public to better understand where, when and how force was used to effectively de-escalate situations that might endanger police or public safety.

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