Tasers unsafe in the hands of Australian police goons
They are a valuable alternative to gunfire but police use them indiscriminately -- meaning that a valuable tool may have to be taken away from them in order to protect the public from a rogue police force. Can you imagine a cop firing one 28 times into a man lying on the ground? No wonder the guy died of a heart attack! Such an abuse is of course well outside all guidelines for use of the weapon. The cop concerned should be in jail for manslaughter
The controversial Taser stun guns may be scrapped in Queensland after a review warned that the weapons could kill and could not be modified to prevent a repeat of the death of a man this year when he was shot 28 times with the 50,000-volt device.
The joint Crime and Misconduct Commission-police review, launched after the June heart-attack death of north Queensland man Antonio Galeano, has ordered an overhaul of police training and operational policy, requiring the stun guns to be used only when there is a "risk of serious injury".
The review, to be released today and obtained exclusively by The Australian, marks the first time an Australian authority has recognised the possibility the stun guns can injure or kill, especially when fired repeatedly at a person. "The possibility of Taser use causing or contributing to death is possible and cannot be ruled out," the review warns.
The Arizona-based manufacturers have repeatedly denied the weapons can kill.
The report is expected to influence the nationwide rollout of Tasers, amid mounting evidence the weapons are being used by police as an everyday compliance tool and not as a non-lethal substitute for a standard gun in high-risk situations.
Sources have told The Australian a coronial investigation has concluded that amphetamine addict Galeano, 39, was deliberately shot 28 times, each time for a duration of up to five seconds, after he confronted police with a steel bar at his unit in Brandon, south of Townsville. It was initially claimed the stun gun might have malfunctioned or that there was a glitch with the built-in computer system recording the number and duration of shots from the weapon.
But investigators will allege the policeman repeatedly Tasered Galeano, who dropped the metal bar after the first few shots, while he lay unarmed and writhing on the floor. He died minutes later while still in handcuffs.
Civil liberties lawyers called for a criminal investigation into the death of Galeano in June, when The Australian revealed he had been shot 28 times. Until then, police had claimed he had been shot only two or three times.
It will be announced today that the freeze on the rollout of Tasers to 3000 general duties officers -- ordered after the death of Galeano -- will be maintained while police move to implement the recommendations of the review.
Meanwhile, the 1200 Tasers with the Queensland police force will remain in operation. But the use of Tasers is under threat, with the CMC recommending they be modified so a single shot lasts no longer than five seconds, and that a limit be put on the numbers of times the weapon can be fired. Police have been told by the manufacturer that "at this stage, this is not feasible with the Taser X26" -- the $15,000-a-piece weapon being used in Queensland and around Australia.
The review recommends that Queensland Police fit an automatic video device on the weapons, which records every time the Taser is pulled from its holster. Queensland police last year refused to buy the weapons with the optional "Tasercam" because of the cost.
Civil liberties lawyer Scott McDougall, director of the Caxton Legal Centre, said police should be forced to table in parliament every deployment of the stun guns in Queensland. He said an independent medical study should be conducted on the weapons, and a freeze on their use should be implemented until the findings were released. "We have clients who were Tasered who were not offering any resistance to police," he said. "Fears that Tasers would be used as a compliance tool may have come to fruition around Australia."