Police Taser Use [Questions Time]

This speech was delivered on 25 March 2013 in the NSW Upper House. You can read the full debate online here.

POLICE TASER — USE 


Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: I direct my question without notice to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. Why do police guidelines not prohibit tasering juveniles? How is it that since 2008 almost 40 juveniles aged under 16 years have come to be tasered by the NSW Police Force, six of them aged 13 years and under?

The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: Over the past couple of years the guidelines for the use of tasers have undergone considerable scrutiny—last year, in particular—and they continue to do so. The taser guidelines are not a static document; they continue to evolve as complaints and concerns are brought forward. The member asked about the use of tasers on juveniles and that matter has been the subject of discussion in recent times. I have made the point that often in an emergency situation a police officer who has to use a taser—

The Hon. Jan Barham: Against a 13-year-old?

The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: —does not have the opportunity to ask a person running towards him or her with a knife or some sort of weapon, “Excuse me, how old are you?” Every taser use is subject to review by a senior commissioned officer—

The Hon. Amanda Fazio: You will be tasering toddlers next.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Hon. Amanda Fazio to order for the first time.

The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: Again a silly comment by a silly member.

The Hon. Amanda Fazio: Don’t call me silly; you are the one who is managing this regime of tasering juveniles.

The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: The member opposite suggests that police are going to taser toddlers. What an absolute disgrace for her to be making offensive comments like that against members of the NSW Police Force. Let the record show when the member gets in front of the microphone in future purporting to represent police that she made reference to police one day tasering toddlers. What an absolutely disgraceful comment, and an indication of the undercurrent which exists on the Opposition benches as to a lack of respect for police. The member should apologise.

The Hon. Lynda Voltz: Point of order—

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister will resume his seat.

The Hon. Lynda Voltz: My point of order is relevance. The Minister is referring to comments that the member did not make. The Minister should return to the leave of the question.

The Hon. Greg Pearce: Who said it then?

The Hon. LYNDA VOLTZ: There is absolutely no way the member said that and the Minister knows it.

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Minister was being generally relevant.

The Hon. Amanda Fazio: Point of order: My point of order is that the Minister has made imputations against me in his comments.

The Hon. Duncan Gay: And you never do.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I cannot hear the point of order.

The Hon. Amanda Fazio: You do not have the call. I ask the President to remind the Minister that he should not do that and I ask the Minister to withdraw those comments because they are simply untrue.

The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: You said “tasering toddlers”—

The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind Ministers and all members with the call that when they are making remarks they are not to reflect on other members in the Chamber.

The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: The Ombudsman’s October 2012 report on how taser weapons are used by the NSW Police Force found that the NSW Police Force should be commended for the steps it has taken to ensure that tasers are used appropriately. The report included detailed analysis of 556 taser events and one of those incidents included two deployments— [Time expired.]

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate his answer by describing in what possible circumstances the NSW Police Force can reasonably hit a 10-year-old with 50,000 volts from a taser rather than use less violent options?

The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: I thank the member for the opportunity to elucidate my answer. One of those incidents included two deployments of a taser on a 14-year-old boy. In relation to this incident with the juvenile offender, the Ombudsman was not satisfied that the police officers had reasonable grounds for multiple use of the taser. The Ombudsman did not make any recommendation regarding taser usage on children; the most relevant recommendation was that police should include reality-based scenarios in taser accreditation training and reaccreditation training that deal with vulnerable people to reinforce the importance of communication, negotiation and other de-escalation techniques.

[Interruption]

The PRESIDENT: Order! The member has asked the question and he will listen to the Minister’s answer in silence.

The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: There was reference—

Mr David Shoebridge: We are talking about tasering primary school kids.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I call Mr David Shoebridge to order for the first time.

The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER: There was some reference from The Greens in relation to the tasering of a 13-year-old. I think the Hon. Jan Barham even interjected about 13-year-olds. I understand that police have emphatically denied that a taser was used during the arrest of a 13-year-old boy at Casino on 5 February 2013 for an alleged car theft. I also understand that there was no mention of the alleged use of a taser at the recent mention of this matter at the Children’s Court.

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