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Police Taser Trial in Government's Ghettos

Maori Party Challenges Police Trial in Government's Ghettos

Thursday 31 August 2006 Hone Harawira; Police Spokesperson for the Maori Party

Hone Harawira will be speaking at a rally, outside Parliament steps, today (Thursday) at 1pm. The rally is to protest against the start of the Taser trial in Aotearoa which begins Friday 1 September 2006.

Maori Party Police Spokesperson, Hone Harawira, today spoke out about the New Zealand Police's decision to target certain populations for the taser blast.

"This Friday, to no-one's surprise, the New Zealand Police is launching its stun-gun trials in big Polynesian communities," said Hone Harawira. The Police will launch their year long trial of taser guns in Auckland (North Shore and Waitakere); Counties Manukau and Porirua this Friday. "The demographics speak for themselves" said Mr Harawira.

"These are places with pockets of high Polynesian populations, and I have no doubt that's where they'll be heading.

 Young Maori people are more highly over-represented in Manukau City than in any other area in New Zealand.

* Under 25 year olds make up 58% of the Counties Manukau population - compared with 36% across all New Zealand.

* Manukau City had the largest count of people of Pacific ethnicity in New Zealand (25%).

* 25% of the people in Porirua City are of Pacific ethnicity as well.

* 15% of the people in Waitakere are of Pacific ethnicity.

* Waitakere is an ethnically diverse community, with about 40% of its population identifying as non-European;

* North Shore City has a high Asian population, and pockets of high Polynesian populations as well. "The Maori Party has raised concerns with the Human Rights Commission about the targeting of specific groups during the taser trials, like young Polynesian men and people in mental health crisis" said Hone Harawira. Amnesty International has warned that tasers cause "intolerable pain and may exacerbate the risk of heart failure" in people under the influence of drugs or with health problems.

"People with mental health, or drug and alcohol problems don't need 50,000 volts. They need help," said Harawira. "Putting lethal weapons into the hands of the police won't help those in need, but it could kill them. "We've asked the Commission to recommend that the Minister of Police, Annette King, immediately suspend the taser gun trial until there has been wide public consultation on this."

"In US and Canada, nearly two hundred people have died following taser shock, 22 in the last three months alone," said Harawira. "It's gotten so bad over there that the US Federal Government has called for a full investigation into taser associated deaths."

"Let's wait for the results of the US investigation," suggested Harawira.

"I mean, just a couple of months ago, the Minister told Parliament that she was pleased that the number of assaults on police has declined since pepper spray has been introduced, so what's the rush?" The Maori Party has also supported the call made by Te Atiawa elder and former Governor General, The Right Reverend, the Honourable Sir Paul Reeves, at a public meeting held in Auckland earlier this year. Sir Paul convened a meeting of a group of well-known civil liberties advocates to form the Campaign Against the Taser (CATT), including the Human Rights Foundation of Aotearoa New Zealand, the Peace Foundation, lawyer Marie Dyhrberg, the CTU and the Howard League, amongst others. That group called for:

* the Government to halt the police proposals

* police instead to concentrate on traditional methods

* an independent inquiry be held before any Taser trial

"This is not an attack on the Police," said Harawira, "but if lethal weapons are going to be issued to operational, front-line police, then everybody deserves a say." "Involving communities in improving community safety achieves way more than blasting some poor bugger with 50,000 volts, and maybe even killing them, because they might be drunk."

The Maori Party has laid a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, asking them to investigate and consider taking court proceedings against the government to suspend the taser gun trial, on the basis of their opinion that the trial is in breach of domestic and international human rights laws, treaties and standards.


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