Editorial: Taser use appropriate

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 13/12/2013

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OPINION: Tasers are being used more often and the number of people injured is increasing.

To which anti-Taser activist John Minto says tsk tsk, while police say that in the overall scheme of things, use is still low.

Actual numbers? In the first six months of the year, Tasers drawn 552 times, discharged 72 times. Ten people moderately or seriously injured. No deaths.

Mr Minto says the latter's just a matter of time, and that's been said since they were introduced in 2010.

And yes, that might happen, because Taser use has led to deaths overseas.

But so far it hasn't happened, and the figures above don't sound outrageous.

I can't help but scoff when Mr Minto says police should refrain from using Tasers, and instead use good body language and communication skills.

I wonder what body language that might be when standing before a drug or booze-fuelled bloke armed with, say, a spade? Mine would be: a) running furiously the other way; or b) legs braced, arms extended, finger on the trigger.

That 10 people have been injured isn't ideal, but that's easily fixed. Don't put yourself in a position to be Tasered.

And the injuries need to be given context. A Taser might be used where before a dog was. Dogs can injure too.

And before Tasers, dozens of police officers were injured each year when trying to physically restrain people. Why shouldn't they have some protection?

Sure, sometimes the police are seen to overreact, but there are complaints procedures to deal with that.

The deterrent aspect is also important. Often hostile situations are defused simply by the appearance of a Taser gun.

Given the situations they encounter, arming police with Tasers is appropriate, and may even be influential in delaying the next step - arming all police with real guns.

A little worrying is how often the police themselves may be in danger from the stun guns, with a number of accidental firings during pre-operation sign-out checks.

Once, one was accidentally fired inside a police car.

Somehow, that's pretty funny.

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- The Timaru Herald

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