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Campaign Against the Taser to monitor Taser use

Media release: Campaign Against the Taser

12 December 2008

Campaign Against the Taser to monitor Taser use after rollout

The Campaign Against the Taser (CATT) has expressed deep concern about the initial stage of the Taser rollout, announced by Police on December 10, Human Rights Day.

"It is ironic that the announcement came on Human Rights Day, given the scope for violations of human rights that is inherent in Taser use. Just last year a United Nations human rights monitoring body, the Committee Against Torture, said that Taser use can constitute a form of torture", Marie Dyhrberg, spokesperson for CATT, said today.

"We remain extremely concerned that, as we saw during the Taser trial period, certain groups will be disproportionately or inappropriately targeted, for example Maori and Pacific people, and those with mental health issues. More generally, the Taser was, and will no doubt continue to be, used in situations where use of force to that level is unjustified - these are all breaches of human rights. We will be keeping a close eye on the use of the Taser as the rollout begins."

The New Zealand Police announcement comes at the same time as Royal Canadian Mounted Police are withdrawing 24 Taser X-26s from their arsenal for further testing after a critical report. This is the same model used during the trial in New Zealand. The 24 Tasers were found to emit shocks of a higher voltage than their supposed maximum.

"This points out the lack of comprehensive, independent and impartial research not only into the medical effects of the Taser, a point we have often made, but also into the weapons themselves. The weapons are unpredictable, their effects are unpredictable – a moratorium on Taser use in New Zealand should be called immediately until they are properly evaluated.

"The Campaign Against the Taser is further concerned that the Taser will be used as a tool of routine force, not of last resort, and that regulations will be breached. Superintendent John Rivers assures us that there will be strict regulation of Taser use. However, our research indicated that there were repeated breaches of the regulations in force during the trial. We are given no reason to believe that breaches will not continue to occur", Dyhrberg said.

The Police have also stated that the fitting of audio and video cam capability to the Taser weapons "will assist with accountability". This will only be of any use if the information recorded is regularly reviewed by an independent and impartial authority. "It is at present unclear what will happen to the recorded information. The potential benefits of such devices will be nil if the information is reviewed internally. That would perpetuate the flaws of the trial – conducted by Police, assessed by Police, with the decision made by Police, with no external, independent input or review. We will be keeping a close eye on developments", she concluded.

For further information see: 'Stun Guns in Aotearoa New Zealand? The Shocking Trial: A report on the New Zealand Police Taser trial', 1 September 2006 to 1 September 2007, Campaign Against the Taser, December 2007 - http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/taser.htm


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