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Taser's deterrent effect highlighted in research

Taser's deterrent effect highlighted in research

Tuesday, 10 December 2013 - 1:00pm

National News

Police has today released comprehensive research data showing the Taser's success in de-escalating hundreds of threatening and violent situations, with one of the lowest injury rates of any tactical option.

Eight reports, published by Police National Headquarters Tactical Options Research Team, capture four years worth of data on the use of Taser and other tactical options – the most comprehensive ever released.

The reports cover the period from 1 March 2009 (when Taser was reintroduced to four Taser trial districts), up to 30 June 2013. While the research primarily focuses on the Taser, it also analyses all other Police tactical options, including handcuffs, empty hand tactics (physical force), pepper spray, baton and firearms.

"Today's release of this data is significant, not only because of the level of detail it provides, but also because it places New Zealand Police at the leading edge of international best practice in accountability and transparency for the use of force," says Superintendent Barry Taylor, National Manager Operations.

"What is really pleasing to see from the data is that in the context of the millions of face to face interactions Police has with the public, the use of force is actually very rare, featuring in less than 1% of those interactions over the four year period.

"Another significant finding is that since the national roll-out of Taser, it has had one of the lowest injury rates of all tactical options, as excluding minor probe wounds, only 1% of subjects it has been used against have sustained further injury," Mr Taylor says.

"It has also proven its powerful deterrent effect in de-escalating threatening and violent situations, backed by the fact that for every seven times it is presented, it is discharged only once."

Mr Taylor says release of the data will assist both Police and the public to better understand where, when and how force is used to effectively de-escalate situations that may endanger police or public safety.

The data also shows that the most commonly used tactical options by Police involve lesser degrees of force. For example, physical force (empty hand tactics) was used in 37% of tactical options reporting events, handcuffs in 34%, and OC spray in 32% of events – though some events involve more than one tactical option being used.

"This illustrates that our training, which focuses heavily on officers using good judgement and sound decision-making skills to ensure the least amount of force possible is used to resolve a situation requiring force, is working," he says.

"Alongside improved tactical training and increased accessibility of Taser to our staff, it has helped staff better protect themselves and the public in violent and risky situations where previously, in some situations, firearms might have been used, undoubtedly saving lives."

Mr Taylor says from April 2014, the reports will be made publicly available twice a year. Meanwhile, use of Taser and other tactical options will continue to be closely monitored to ensure law, police best practice and policy are followed.

Copies of the TASER reports and a summary of their key findings are available on the Police website.


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