A press release has pointed me at a study in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry on Use of Tasers on people with mental illness: A New Zealand database study [log in for PDF]. Using the publicly published data from the police's one-year taser trial, a team from the University of Auckland investigated the police's use of tasers, with a specific eye on people suffering from mental illness. The results were disturbing. People suffering from mental illness were twice as likely to be tasered than criminals. Police have also used tasers inside mental health facilities, explicitly threatening to torture patients in order to "induce compliance". Neither is acceptable.
But that wasn't the only disturbing thing the study found.
Maori (the indigenous people of New Zealand) and Pacific (people with Pacific Island ethnicities) were over-represented among subjects where ethnicity was recorded (127 of 141: missing data=14). Twenty-eight percent of the sample was Maori and 25% Pacific compared with 14.6% Maori and 6.9% Pacific in the national population (Statistics New Zealand, 2007). Europeans were underrepresented with 31% of all subjects compared to the New Zealand European population of 67.6%.So, if you're brown, the police will pull a taser on you. If you're white, they won't. It looks like racism is alive and well in our police force.