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Taser Opponents Lack New Zealand Perspective

Media Release

For Immediate Release
Wednesday 12 December 2007

Taser Opponents Lack New Zealand Perspective

Opponents to New Zealand Police being issued with Taser devices are ignoring the realities of modern policing in New Zealand, Police Association President Greg O'Connor said today.

"Unfortunately New Zealand Police are being called upon to respond to more and more volatile and violent situations where lives are at risk. Police officers are also facing record numbers of violent assaults. We must be able to respond to these threats safely and effectively, without being forced to use firearms, which are almost always lethal," Mr O'Connor said.

"The successful New Zealand trial clearly showed that Tasers would give us the less-than-lethal option we need. Failure to issue them would almost certainly mean more tragic and avoidable deaths in future."

"Taser opponents need to be very careful about trying to apply overseas-generated hysteria to the New Zealand situation. Our Police are not armed, unlike their counterparts in North America. So Tasers would obviously occupy a different role in our use-of-force spectrum. The rules and training around use of force are also quite different for New Zealand Police," Mr O'Connor said.

"Yes, Tasers cause pain and can cause injuries, primarily when an offender falls to the ground when incapacitated. But they have not been definitively proved to be the cause of death in any of the very tiny proportion of occasions where a person has died within a period of time following being tasered. Compare that safety record with the chances of survival for offenders who have to be shot, not to mention the numerous innocent lives undoubtedly saved through its use."

Mr O'Connor also dismissed as scare-mongering suggestions that Tasers were torture devices that would promote abuse of prisoners.

"It's ridiculous to label Tasers a torture device. Clearly torture could be undertaken with any number of implements. It's a question of conduct: does anyone seriously think that tasering a violent offender who is threatening someone else's life, instead of shooting them, amounts to torture?"

"Similarly, abuse and assault are matters of individual conduct in which any number of items could be used. Tasers are actually less likely to be misused in this way than virtually any other weapon. Critics seem ignorant of the fact that Tasers automatically record in a memory chip the date, time, and duration of any use of the device, making it very easy to prove or disprove allegations of misuse, and hold officers appropriately accountable. That is not so easily done with any other device in use," Mr O'Connor said.

ENDS

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