Tasers fired more often

Last updated 13:00 10/12/2013

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Police are discharging Tasers more often and the number of people injured by them is increasing, police statistics reveal.

From January 1 to June 30 police showed Tasers on 552 occasions and discharged them 72 times.

The number of discharges was the highest six month figure since Tasers were rolled out nationwide in 2010.
Tasers were shown in 21.5 per cent of all tactical responses by police, another six month high and compared to the six months from July 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011 when tasers were used in 13.2 per cent of tactical call outs.

The data also showed the most commonly used tactical options by police involved lesser degrees of force, police said.

Physical force was used in 37 per cent of reported events, handcuffs in 34 per cent, and pepper spray in 32 per cent of events - though some events involved more than one tactical option being used.

Police national manager operations Superintendent Barry Taylor said it was pleasing to see such a low use of force.
 
"In the context of the millions of face to face interactions police has with the public, the use of force is actually very rare, featuring in less than 1 per cent of those interactions over the four year period.
 
"Another significant finding is that since the national roll-out of Taser, it has had one of the lowest injury rates of all tactical options, as excluding minor probe wounds, only 1 per cent of subjects it has been used against have sustained further injury.

"This illustrates that our training, which focuses heavily on officers using good judgment and sound decision-making skills to ensure the least amount of force possible is used to resolve a situation requiring force, is working," he said.

The injuries from Tasers was on the rise, however, with 10 people moderately or seriously injured as a result of a Taser shot in the six months to June 30.

There had been 14 such injuries in the 18 months before that.

Police also had to fire Tasers more at individuals with officers having to use three or more discharges on an individual suspect 10 times in that six month period.

In the 18 months before that three or more discharges into the same suspect only occurred seven times.

Anti-Taser activist John Minto said it was only a matter of time before someone died because of a Taser shot.

"It's inevitable we are going to see someone killed before too long.

"In the United States hundreds of people have been killed by Tasers."

Minto wanted to see only the armed offenders squad armed with Tasers.

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"It would be a genuine alternative to firearms but they shouldn't be generally issued.

"The more police have them and the more officers will use them and grab them rather than good body language and communication skills."

Minto said he had seen police act very well without them in the past but if those same situations were replicated today then the Taser would be out straight away.

Without seeing the statistics, Minto said he thought low income Maori and Pacific Island people with mental health issues would be the most often tasered.

"These families under the most pressure are going to be the people on the receiving end of Tasers."

Since July 2011 there had been 239 Taser discharges from 1800 occasions when the weapon was brandished.

Of those 52 were used on people with mental illness while 130 were used on Maori, 31 on Pacific Islanders and 57 on Europeans.

- Stuff

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