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Stop the Taser trials before somebody dies

Stop the Taser trials before somebody dies

Hone Harawira; Maori Party Police Spokesperson;

29 August 2006

“The Minister of Police must stop the taser gun trials before somebody gets killed,” said Hone Harawira, speaking out ahead of the NZ Police’s plan to launch a year long trial of taser guns in Auckland (North Shore and Waitakere) and Wellington starting this Friday (1 September).

“There are simply too many unanswered questions,” said Harawira. “The Minister has the responsibility to answer them, because public safety, indeed public lives, are at stake.”

1 On 9 May 2006, the Minister told Parliament that "I am pleased to say that the number of assaults on police has declined since pepper spray has been introduced".

If that is the case, why is the Minister now agreeing to add another, entirely more lethal weapon, the 50,000 volt Taser stun-gun, to the police arsenal?
2 The Minister has publicly stated that the Taser trials are an operational issue for the police, and therefore not a matter for her consideration.

Is the Minister saying that it is accepted practice to deploy a weapon with the capability to kill, without prior ministerial or cabinet approval? Is the arming of front line police just an operational matter?

In the past six years, 197 people have died in the US and Canada, prompting a recent federal investigation by the US Justice Department, into taser associated deaths. Why are we jumping the gun, literally, by introducing a trial before the results of that investigation are complete?

3 On 9 May 2006, the Minister told Parliament that “I have seen those reports, but I am also aware of the assessments of Tasers by other jurisdictions similar to New Zealand ...”

Why then is the Minister’s office now telling members of the public, including some of her own constituents, that she has no information on the Taser?
When the NZ Police cite the Cincinnati Police Department (USA) as a positive example of why tasers should be introduced, does that mean the Minister considers the inner-city slums of Cincinnati, where the murder rate is four times higher than in New York city, to be one of those “…jurisdictions similar to New Zealand”?

4 The Minister has referred to the Taser as “a weapon of last resort”.
Can the Minister please say why, if the Taser were genuinely a “weapon of last resort”, it is not being issued to the armed offender’s squad, but being deployed for immediate operational use, to ordinary police?

“The Taser will kill, and the people who will die will be members of the New Zealand public,” says Harawira. “The least the Minister can do is front up and answer the questions that the public desperately want answers to.”


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