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Opposition to Police Taser Trial Tuesday, Auckland

Campaign Against the Taser (CATT)

Public Meeting to Launch Opposition to Police Taser Trial

A public meeting has been organized to voice strong community opposition to the New Zealand Police proposal to trial the Taser “stun gun”.

The meeting is being held at the Columba Centre, Vermont Street, Ponsonby at 7.30pm on Tuesday, June 6th. Media representatives are welcome to attend and report on the meeting.

A media pack will be available and this will include a DVD with dramatic, deeply-disturbing footage of tasers being used in police operations in North America.

The Taser “stun gun” fires barbs which penetrate the skin and then administer a single or pro-longed electric shock at 50,000volts. It can only be described as a weapon that is dangerous and has been responsible for causing or resulting in deaths in other countries. Many New Zealanders have grave concerns about this proposed trial of the Taser which is due to start in September this year in our main cities.

The Campaign against the Taser (CATT) is honoured to have Sir Paul Reeves act as Chair at this first public meeting. Other speakers at the meeting will include John Minto, [highly regarded human rights and civil liberties activist], Dr Murray Hing, [experienced medical practitioner] and Dr Rodney Harrison, [human rights and constitutional legal expert].

The issue of the introduction of Tasers for use by the New Zealand Police is important for a number of reasons. One is the complete absence of an independent, impartial and thorough enquiry by scientific, legal and law enforcement specialists as to the use and effects of the introduction of Tasers into New Zealand policing. The second is the absence of strict rules, safeguards and monitoring procedures to prevent misuse of this electric-shock equipment.

The police proposal appears to rely on information provided by the Taser Corporation itself whereas independent research shows that Tasers are not safe and amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and torture. Further most people who have died in custody were unarmed and not posing a serious threat to police officers, members of the public, or themselves and those who died were generally subjected to repeated or prolonged shocks.

The police are not introducing Tasers as a substitute for using lethal force through the use of guns and their use will be interchangeable with pepper spraying. The New Zealand public has recently witnessed the abuse and lack of restraint by police officers associated with the use of the pepper spray. Overseas studies show that the Taser’s primary use is not on hardened and armed criminals but on the mentally or physically disabled, the emotionally disturbed, people in vulnerable positions under the influence of drugs or alcohol or prisoners in custody or resisting arrest. Although they were often highly agitated and stressed, they did not pose a threat of serious injury to themselves or others when they were “tasered”.

The compelling conclusion reached from the research is that the New Zealand Police should not start a trial of the use of Tasers unless and until the above concerns have been met and appropriate experts have independently assessed the safety of and need for Taser use. It is essential that the New Zealand Public is fully informed and then decides whether the arming of the Police force with this potentially lethal weapon is what is both necessary and desirable for New Zealand society.

Marie Dyhrberg - Spokesperson for CATT - Barrister.

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