It was announced today that NSW Police are getting Tasers to assist them in their policing duties. It will give officers another tool to stop an offender rather than shooting them with a gun. While it is a positive move, in my opinion, it does not go far enough.
So far, the State Protection Group (think SWAT) and the Public Order and Riot Squad are currently issued with Tasers. According to the NSW Police website, there are 50 Tasers issued to specialist Police including those groups I’ve just mentioned. The tasers have been used on nearly 50 occasions since their introduction.
Today’s announcement adds another 229 to the Taser pool with around 2000 officers to be trained in their use. While this sounds impressive, there are over 13, 300 Police officers in NSW (source NSW Police website). So who misses out? As it turns out, the people who will be trained first in Taser use and operations in General Duties policing will be the Duty Officer and Supervisor positions (usually Sargent and above). Interestingly, these Tasers will be fitted with a camera when they are deployed. I am wondering though – how much of the lead up will be captured on the camera? Does it only activate when the trigger is pulled or is there a separate button that can be pushed when the Taser is unholstered?
While this is a good move, it is merely a good start that does not go far enough. The people who (so far) will be missing out on the Tasers are the rank and file Police officers who are patrolling the streets, not sitting back in the Police Station. In many situations, the first Police who respond are not the Duty Officer or Supervisor. They may attend if they are in the area (especially the Supervisor) or if the first report is serious enough but as many people know who have been out and about in Sydney, situations can flare up easily and get really ugly, really quickly. Unless the Supervisor is constantly out on the street and responding with his charges, it will probably be too late for a Taser by the time they are called in.
So what is the solution?
The NSW Police Association (who represent the Police in issues such as this) are calling for a wider issue of Tasers and for them to be available in all first response Police vehicles. While this might happen eventually, it is my opinion that this needs to be done sooner rather than later. By now, management of NSW Police must know if they are effective or not.