Collins calls for police discretion in taser use

By Derek Cheng

Judith Collins says police should have greater discretion when using tasers in volatile situations. File photo / APN
Judith Collins says police should have greater discretion when using tasers in volatile situations. File photo / APN

Police Minister Judith Collins says police officers should have more discretion on using the Taser in volatile situations, even if a threat has not presented itself.

The minister is backing new Police Commissioner Peter Marshall, who yesterday revealed he intended to grant frontline police greater access to tasers and firearms, as well as relaxing the restrictions on when officers can use tasers.

He wanted lock-boxes in each of 2700-odd frontline police vehicles, each containing a Glock, a rifle, ballistic armour and a taser.

He also wanted police officers to be able to take a taser into a situation, such as a domestic violence, without the current restriction of needing approval from a supervisor via the communications centre.

Ms Collins said Commissioner Marshall had her full support.

"I think he's absolutely right. I've been out with the frontlines a lot. It's harder to get a taser out than it is to get a Glock out, and frankly that doesn't make sense to me.

"A taser is a non-lethal option and it should be easier for police officers to be able to take it with them when they go into situations, without necessarily having encountered a threat.

"They should be able to use their discretion and we should be backing them to use their discretion ... The public are very aware that the police are not misusing them at all, and that they do save lives, not only members of the public but also offenders."

She said police would have to buy hundreds more tasers, which would mean a re-balancing of the budget because there was no new money.

"[Commissioner Marshall] is fully aware of that, and it's something that can be phased in."

But she was lukewarm on the Commissioner's support for harsher penalties for assaults on police.

The Government is progressing a bill through Parliament to make assaulting a police officer an aggravating factor at sentencing. Judges can already do this, but the bill would make it mandatory.

"I think that will satisfy a lot of the issues," Ms Collins said.

She was also less welcoming of the commissioner's support for a jail term for every offence of failing to stop for police.

She said drivers fleeing police usually faced more serious concurrent charges, often carrying a jail term already, so introducing mandatory jail terms for drivers fleeing police might not be an effective deterrent.

"Most people who flee police have some reason to flee ... in many cases those people are already going to jail.

"If [the commissioner] wants to talk to me about it, I'm always happy to listen ... Occasionally we're going to come to situations where we're not completely in agreement."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 23 Dec 2014 12:13:44 Processing Time: 292ms