Monday, January 07, 2013

Tasers: Torturing the mentally ill

When Tasers were first introduced to New Zealand, people warned that they would be disproportionately used against the mentally ill. They were right:

Since the nationwide rollout of Tasers in March 2010, they have been drawn by police officers 1320 times and discharged 212 times.

The battery-powered stun guns fire electric barbs, which penetrate a person's skin and deliver a shock of up to 50,000 volts.

Numbers released under the Official Information Act show nearly a third of those hit were considered by police to have mental health issues.

Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements said they had always feared those with mental health problems would be a target for officers using Tasers and the figures confirmed that.

There are two ugly trends exposed here. One is the move by police from "policing by consent" to "compliance policing", where the public are made to obey by the constant threat of force. The second is pure laziness, with police dealing with troublesome cases by reaching for their electric torture device rather than their brains. Neither is acceptable.