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Commission Calls For More Taser Research


Media Release
28 August 2008


Commission Calls For More Taser Research

The Mental Health Commission is keen to ensure the needs of vulnerable groups are taken into account before police officers are issued with tasers.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad announced today that he has decided to introduce tasers as a tactical weapon option for the police, although he says it will be several months before they will be available for police use.

Mental Health Commission Chair Peter McGeorge acknowledges the difficult position frontline police officers often find themselves in, especially when mental health emergencies arise.

“These situations can be very fraught for all concerned. Mental health crises are often associated with extreme levels of distress and the police are expected to balance the need to respond quickly and efficiently with the equally pressing need to keep everyone as safe as possible.

“It’s an unenviable position to be in and we appreciate that police officers want to be able to draw on as many techniques and tools as possible in these situations, including the use of Tasers.

“The Commission’s concern is primarily that the use of Tasers by police may result in deaths, especially when used on people already in a vulnerable state such as those showing signs of mental illness and being on medications.”

Dr McGeorge referred to Amnesty International’s report last December of 291 deaths in the USA and Canada between 2001 and 2007 following the use of police tasers.

“We need more research into the psychological and physical effects of Tasers on individuals experiencing mental illness and addiction so that police can then develop the best possible guidelines to cover their use.”

Or visit our website at www.mhc.govt.nz

Background about the Mental Health Commission:
The Mental Health Commission was established in 1998 as a crown entity providing independent advice to the Government following the Mason Inquiry into Mental Health Services.

The Commission’s functions as defined by the Mental Health Commission Amendment Act 2007 are to:

- advocate for the interests of people with mental illness and their families generally (rather than for individuals or groups), while taking into account the interests of other stakeholders;

- promote and facilitate collaboration and communication about mental health issues;

- work independently and with others to promote better understanding of mental illness by the community, reduce the stigma and prejudice associated with mental illness, and to eliminate inappropriate discrimination on the grounds of mental illness;

- monitor, and to report to and advise the Minister on the implementation of the national mental health strategy;

- stimulate and support the development of integrated and effective methods or systems of providing care;

- stimulate and to do research into any matter relevant to mental illness.

ENDS

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