What is a Taser and when and where can it be used in Australia?
A Taser is an electroshock weapon that uses electrical current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles.
Its manufacturer, Taser International, calls the effects "neuromuscular incapacitation” and the devices' mechanism "Electro-Muscular Disruption (EMD) technology".
Taser use in Australia
Taser use in Australian law enforcement is varied across all States and Territories.
Possession, ownership and use of a stun gun (including Tasers) by civilians is considerably restricted, if not illegal in all States and Territories.
The importation into Australia is restricted with permits being required.
• Australian Federal Police - used only by officers attached to the Specialist Response and Security Team.
• New South Wales - Used by general duties (patrol), supervisors/duty officers and specialist officers attached to the Tactical Operations Unit and Public Order and Riot Squad.
• Northern Territory - Used by both general duties (patrol) and the Territory Response Group.
• Queensland - Used by both general duties (patrol) and Special Emergency Response Team.
• South Australia - Used only by the Special Tasks and Rescue Group with a general roll out to other police being trialled.
• Tasmania - Used only by the Special Operations Group
• Victoria - Used only by the Critical Incident Response Team and Special Operations Group.
• Western Australia - Used by both general duties (patrol) and the Tactical Response Group.
Taser use guidelines
SBS approached NSW Police, Queensland Police, ACT Police and the AFP asking to be provided a copy of the Taser use guidelines. Unfortunately no guidelines have been provided.
ACT Police told SBS that the guidelines are not public documents.
Queensland Police say they are trained to use tasers as a part of the situational use of force model, which means they make a risk assessment of a situation, and decide which is the most appropriate response.
Tasers have proven to be particularly helpful when dealing with dangerous or violent situations where people are threatening self harm or harming others, Queesland Police say.
They have allowed police to resolve these issues without injury to officers or the general public.
In many instances, they have been used successfully in situations where previously a firearm may have been used, they say.
The 2008 Queensland Police's guidelines say officers should consider all the 'use of force' option available to them and all the circumstances of the incident when determining whether to use Tasers.
Tasers should not be used:
-against persons offering passive resistance
-as a crowd control measure
-punitively for purposes of coercion or as a prod to make a person move
-on suspects where there is a likelihood of significant secondary injuries from a fall
-against juveniles, females and elderly persons
NSW Police told SBS that they have 1,856 tasercams in use.
Between 3rd October 2008 to 4th July 2010 they recorded 1.059 incidents of use of taser.
-61per cent involved draw and cover
-18 per cent involved discharging barbs (Firing the Taser)
-8 per cent involved using the taser in drive stun mode
-13 per cent were accidental discharges
Alcohol was involved in 37 per cent
Mental illness was involved in 15 per cent
Domestic violence involved in 13 per cent
How does a taser work?
Someone struck by a Taser experiences stimulation of his or her sensory nerves and motor nerves, resulting in strong involuntary muscle contractions.
The Taser fires two small dart-like electrodes, which stay connected to the main unit by conductive wire as they are propelled by small compressed nitrogen charges similar to some air gun or paintball marker propellants.
Tasers do not rely only on pain compliance, except when used in Drive Stun mode, and are thus preferred by some law enforcement over non-Taser stun guns and other electronic control weapons.
At the present time, there are two main police models, the M26 and X26.