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You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC delivers latest review of police Taser use — 26.06.2013
You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC delivers latest review of police Taser use — 26.06.2013
You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC delivers latest review of police Taser use — 26.06.2013

CMC delivers latest review of police Taser use — 26.06.2013

The Crime and Misconduct Commission’s (CMC’s) latest review of Taser use by the Queensland Police Service (QPS) has found that most multiple or prolonged deployments appeared to be appropriate, and were targeted at people who were displaying violent behaviour.

The report Multiple and prolonged Taser deployments (PDF) was tabled in State Parliament today. It follows on from the CMC’s 2011 report Evaluating Taser reforms: a review of Queensland Police Service policy and practice (PDF), which concluded that multiple and prolonged Taser deployments needed further examination.

Multiple deployments occur when more than one Taser cycle is targeted at a person during an incident, either by the same officer or by different officers. Prolonged deployments occur when the Taser is activated for more than five continuous seconds.

The CMC’s director of Applied Research and Evaluation, Dr Rebecca Denning, said the latest review looked at why multiple and prolonged Taser deployments occurred and whether their use was appropriate and justified, with a view to informing improvements to policy and practice.

‘Multiple and prolonged Taser deployments are at the upper limits of police use of force options,’ Dr Denning said.

‘QPS policy dictates, and the public expect, that police should use the minimum amount of force necessary to resolve an incident.

‘While multiple and prolonged Taser deployments have decreased over time, the most recent data available shows they account for one third of all Taser deployments.'

The CMC’s Applied Research and Evaluation unit examined all multiple and prolonged Taser deployments between September 2009 and December 2012, and spoke to Queensland police officers and community and legal groups.

Over this period, 123 people were the target of a multiple or prolonged Taser deployment. The report found that most of those deployments were at the lower end of the spectrum of exposure length. In particular:

  • 58 per cent of multiple deployments involved two cycles, and 24 per cent involved three cycles.
  • 51 per cent of prolonged Taser deployments were between six and seven seconds, and 74 per cent of prolonged deployments were less than 10 seconds.

‘Importantly, 83 per cent of people who were the target of a multiple or prolonged deployment were exposed to cycles totalling between six and 15 seconds,’ Dr Denning said.

‘This is consistent with international guidelines, which recommend limiting Taser exposure to 15 seconds.’

Dr Denning said the report found that most multiple or prolonged deployments were directed at people who were displaying violent behaviour.

‘This is consistent with QPS policy that states that Tasers should only be used where there is a risk of serious injury to a person.

‘In violent situations, the use of a multiple or prolonged deployment may minimise the risk of injury to the police officer, the community and the subject person.

‘We also found that multiple or prolonged Taser deployments typically occurred because one or more of the cycles was not effective in reducing the level of violence and risk.’

The report also found that most multiple or prolonged Taser deployments involved people from medically vulnerable or at-risk groups.

82 per cent of subjects were reportedly affected by drugs and/or alcohol, 44 per cent were believed to have an underlying mental health condition, and 16 per cent were Indigenous.

Dr Denning said that while incidents involving people from medically vulnerable or at-risk groups can present challenges for police, the use of a multiple or prolonged Taser deployment may be a better option where those subjects were behaving violently.

‘All of the community and legal groups we consulted agreed that the decision to use a multiple or prolonged Taser deployment should be based on a person’s behaviour at the time of the incident.

‘There was no evidence to suggest that the use of multiple or prolonged Taser deployments against people from medically vulnerable or at-risk groups was inappropriate. We found that the deployments occurred where members of those groups were behaving violently.’

Dr Denning said that while the review confirmed that Tasers were a useful tool for police, it had also identified room for improvement.

‘This report makes three recommendations aimed at improving Taser reporting, review and training practices.

‘In particular, it is important that the police record the reason for, and effect of, each Taser cycle during an incident.

‘This recommendation is aimed at ensuring that these deployments are subject to an appropriate level of scrutiny by the QPS.

‘The CMC will continue to work collaboratively with the QPS to ensure that Taser use is appropriately reviewed and scrutinised.’

 

For further information or to request an interview with Dr Rebecca Denning, please contact the CMC's media unit on (07) 3360 6000.

Last updated: 21 April 2015
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