IF THE Victorian Liberal party have their way, the State’s police will be equipped with Taser stun guns following the next election. Yet the Federation of Community Legal Centre’s (FCLC) Police Issues Working Group said the idea was a “highly dangerous proposition and could lead to abuse”.
Shadow Minister for Police Kim Wells proposed a raft of initiatives for Victoria Police, which Liberal leader Ted Baillieu presented to the Victoria Police Association conference last month. They included an intention to “support and fund the immediate deployment of stun guns to all police stations”.
“A Liberal government would immediately provide funding and authorise Victoria Police to deploy Taser stun guns to all police stations across Victoria for use by appropriately trained Victoria Police members in direct confrontational and dangerous situations,” Baillieu said.
But the FCLC showed significant concern that this proposal flew in the face of community policing, which was supposed to be an operating policy of Victoria Police.
“Police need to be resourced as human beings not equipped as soldiers,” convenor of the police issues working group for the FCLC and principle solicitor at North Melbourne Legal Service, Lee Hurlston said.
“Tasers do not provide flexibility. Proper response training does,” she said.
“Tasers are in fact a weapon of lethal force and potentially an implement of torture. Officers require adequate training to respond effectively to people with mental illness. Not more weaponry.”
Following a trial of the weapons in Victoria in 2005, Tasers are now confined only to the force response unit and the special operations group. Liberal ministers, however, feel they should be given to all frontline police.
The FCLC cited a recent confidential study by Alfred Hospital that found that Tasers expose subjects to “immediate risks and potentially fatal dangers”.
Policy officer for FCLC, Anthony Kelly said that “as the electro-shocks do not typically leave any physical marks on those ‘Tasered’, the potential for abuse is heightened, especially when use of the Taser is threatened once in custody”.