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Hysteria threatens taser trial

June 28 2007

Hysteria over violence against Police threatens trial

“Violence against police has always been a serious concern,” Marie Dyhrberg, spokesperson for the Campaign Against the Taser, said today. “But there is no evidence that violent assaults on police are increasing.” She cited figures from police reports which show that assaults on police involving weapons of any kind, including firearms and stabbing or cutting weapons, have dropped, from 97 in 1996/97 to 84 over 2005/06.

“Whipping up hysteria about increasing violence against police is not going to improve policing in this country to the benefit of all New Zealanders,” she said. “Mr O’Connor suggested on Monday that it is either tasers or guns for police: this is simplistic and untrue.”

Stab proof vests, properly fitted and distributed, are just one example of a measure that can be taken which would protect police without compromising their integrity, she said. “Given that the taser is increasingly being deployed against mentally disturbed individuals, improved police training in crisis intervention is another obvious measure more likely be of much greater benefit than giving the green light to the use of tasers."

Marie Dyhrberg emphasised the need for clarity amid the current hysteria about violence against police. The Police have a responsibility to the people of New Zealand to conduct the taser trial properly and transparently, she said.

“It seems Mr.O’Connor needs to be reminded that the taser is being trialled in New Zealand. During a trial, risks and benefits are carefully considered before a decision is taken. It seems that Mr.O’Connor has made up his mind already, even though the trial hasn’t ended yet,” she said.

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The attempt by Mr O'Connor to link the Hawkes Bay incident with the taser debate was opportunistic and inappropriate. Police Standard Operating Procedures for the taser show its use would not have been appropriate during that incident. Dyhrberg pointed out that the Procedures state: ‘use of the EMI device (taser) against a subject armed with a firearm should not normally be considered.’

ENDS

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