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Wellington Meeting to Oppose Police Taser Trial

Wellington Meeting to Oppose Police Taser Trial

A public meeting has been organised to voice community opposition to the New Zealand police proposal to trial the taser 'stun gun' in Wellington.

The meeting is being held at the St John's Conference Centre, corner Willis and Dixon Streets, at 7pm on Tuesday, August 15th. Media representatives are welcome to attend and report on the meeting. A Campaign Against The Taser media pack will be available which includes 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 50,000 volts. It can only be described as a weapon that is dangerous as its use has resulted in deaths in other countries. More that 180 people have died in taser-related deaths in North America over the past five years. Many New Zealanders have grave concerns about the proposed trial of the taser which is due to start in September.

The meeting will feature speakers: Ruth Harrison, Chair Commissioner, Mental Health Commission; Sharon Clair, Vice President Maori, CTU, and NZ Nurses Organisation; Michael Bott, Human rights barrister, and Chairman, NZ Council for Civil Liberties; and John Minto, Campaign Against The Taser.

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 were 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 guns, but it would be used as a substitute for tact and diplomacy, batons and pepper-spray. The New Zealand public has recently witnessed the lack of restraint by police officers using pepper spray.

Overseas studies show that the primary use of tasers 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'.

Such is the level of public concern in the United States that a Federal level investigation is now underway into taser-related deaths there. It is irresponsible for the New Zealand police to proceed with tasers before this investigation has been completed.

It is essential that the public is fully informed about tasers, and then decides whether the arming of the police force with this potentially lethal weapon is necessary or desirable for New Zealand society.

Media contact for this meeting: Peace Movement Aotearoa, telephone 04 382 8129, email

Regularly updated information about tasers is available on the Campaign Against The Taser web site at www.campaignagainstthetaser.com

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Peace Movement Aotearoa (PMA)
the national networking peace organisation
PO Box 9314, Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand
Tel +64 4 382 8129, fax 382 8173 email pma@xtra.co.nz
PMA website - http://www.converge.org.nz/pma
Not in Our Name - http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/nionnz.htm
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