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Current focus areas

Reducing the risk of misuse, injury and death from Tasers

Community legal centres have long argued that Tasers are not the panacea to reducing police use of a firearm. There are substantial dangers that Tasers can kill or harm when used on vulnerable groups or in particular ways. Evidence from around the world suggests that Tasers are prone to misuse by police. We also know that use of lethal force by police can often be avoided by better police training and tactics.

The Federation’s report, Taser Trap - Is Victoria Falling For It?, brings together internal Victoria Police documents obtained by the Federation through freedom of information legislation, as well as publicly available information and the experience of community legal centres, to warn the Victorian public that death and serious injury in connection with Taser use in Victoria is a real possibility.

You can download a copy of the report and view the documents referred to in the report here.

Background to the Taser Report

Over the past two years, the Federation used freedom of information laws to obtain access to important internal Victoria Police reports and information concerning:

  • policies governing use of Tasers;
  • incident reports on Taser use;and
  • failures in police use of force training and culture.

We did this work with pro bono assistance from two law firms and the Victorian Bar, and with support from Professor Jude McCulloch and PhD candidate Emma Ryan at Monash University.

Victoria Police initially refused to provide large parts of this information. The Federation commenced legal proceedings and, shortly before the hearing on both occasions, obtained large parts of the information originally sought.

The Federation analysed the information and met with senior Victoria Police representatives to discuss our concerns and also liaised with other bodies including the Office of Police Integrity.

Outcomes of the Taser work

This work, which has received significant statewide, national and international media coverage, has directly contributed to:

  • Significant improvements to Victoria Police Taser use policies reducing the risk of misuse and injury or death from their use;
  • Victoria Police Taser use policies becoming publicly available for the first time. Equivalent policies are available in many other Australian and overseas jurisdictions;
  • Greater public understanding of the risks of death and serious injury when Tasers are used against vulnerable people and of evidence that casts doubt on claims that Tasers reduce shootings; and
  • Greater public understanding of when Tasers are being used and who they are being used against (eg: our analysis of incident reports confirmed that Tasers are being used against the same vulnerable groups who are most at risk of death and serious injury from Tasers).

Victoria Police has invited the Federation to participate in their internal reviews of each Taser use during the pilot roll out of Tasers to general duties police. We are continuing to monitor police Taser use and advocate for the implementation of the recommendations of the Taser Trap report.

This work has complemented the police accountability work of our member CLCs, notably Flemington Kensington CLC and the Human Rights Law Centre.

Contact Michelle McDonnell for further information about our work on Tasers.

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