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STUNNED! A column by Hone Harawira

September 1, 2006

Te Reo o Te Tai Tokerau
A column by Hone Harawira
Maori Party MP for Te Tai Tokerau


Today the NZ Police begin a year-long trial of the taser gun in Auckland and Wellington - read that as South Auckland and Porirua.

Northland isn't part of the trial, but you can bet that if it goes past trial stage, we will be getting the same shocking treatment as everyone else.

So what is this taser, and what does it mean to us?

The Taser is a stun-gun. It fires two metal harpoons which wedge themselves in the skin. It delivers a charge of 50,000 volts, and at every pull of the trigger, it will deliver that charge again, and again, and again.

Being shot with a taser gun renders the victim totally senseless, it often results in people urinating and defecating themselves, and it kills people as well.

Nearly 200 people have died following taser shock in the US since 1999 (22 in the past three months alone). While not all deaths can be attributed to the taser, coroners have found the taser to have directly caused or contributed to 23 deaths.

The taser used to be called 'non-lethal' until US police noticed that it was killing people. Now they call it 'less-lethal'.

Because of the high number of deaths, the US Justice Department is carrying out a full investigation into taser use and taser associated deaths.

We know that people with heart problems are extremely high risk. We also know that most of those who have died from taser shock were unarmed men, that many of them did not pose a serious threat when tasered, and that most of those who died were given multiple or prolonged shocks.

The government has bypassed its responsibilities over the taser by saying it's an operational issue for the police, but I refuse to believe that a lethal weapon can be deployed on the streets of New Zealand without government approval.

The minister has also called the taser a "weapon of last resort" but that is clearly not true either, because if it was, it would have been deployed to the armed offenders squad. It hasn't. It will be given to cops on the beat in Tikipunga and Otangarei if it ever comes north.

And for those of you out there moaning, "Oh come on Hone - there will be strict guidelines for their use," I ask you to remember that item on television news a couple of months back, showing three New Zealand cops standing over a guy lying on the ground with handcuffs on. Remember that? And then one of the cops casually leans over and blasts the poor bugger in the face with pepper spray!

Folks, when people think the cameras aren't around, there are no guidelines, and if you don't believe me, try asking a criminal lawyer. It happens all the time.

This weapon will kill - make no mistake about that.

I urge you to write to the Minister of Police, and to your MP, and ask that the Taser trial be stopped, until:
• the full results of the US Justice Department investigation are in,
• communities are given an opportunity to consider the available options,
• a full public inquiry is held into the possible use of tasers.

Look after yourself folks, and see you in a couple of weeks.


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