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When Can Police Use A Taser? (Qld)

Taser is the brand name of a “conducted energy weapon” used by Queensland Police. It is defined as “a hand-held neuro-muscular disruption device capable of temporarily incapacitating a person and causing pain through the application of an electrical current”. A Taser can be used when force is required to subdue or incapacitate someone to avoid serious injury to themselves or others.

Carrying a Taser

An officer is not permitted to carry a Taser unless they have completed the relevant Taser training course. Retraining in Taser use must be completed annually. Police can carry a Taser while on duty, except in a courthouse, correctional centre or detention centre.  An officer must not leave the device unattended in a vehicle or other place without a sufficient reason. A sufficient reason could be that there are special circumstances, such as the officer being involved in hostage or suicide negotiations, or attending a riot.

A Taser is considered a Category R weapon under the Weapons Categories Regulation 1997. It is illegal for a civilian to own a Taser.

Operation modes

A Taser can be used in either probe mode or drive stun mode.

In probe mode, an air cartridge shoots probes or wires into the subject, with short-duration, high-voltage electrical pulses then delivered through those probes or wires. This mode is used when a person is highly agitated, mentally disordered or affected by drugs or alcohol. It renders the person temporarily incapacitated or unable to move with co-ordination.

In drive stun mode, the Taser is applied directly to the body of a person or animal, which causes significant discomfort at the application site without incapacitating the person or animal. This mode should not be used except in extreme circumstances where there is no other reasonable option to avoid the imminent risk of serious injury, or where it is used in combination with the probe mode to complete the incapacitation of someone.

The Taser is programmed to emit electrical current for five seconds when the trigger is pressed and released. Five seconds is the standard operational period for deployment but a police officer can shorten this period by using a safety lever or prolong it by holding the trigger continuously.

Use of Tasers

The Queensland Police Operational Procedures Manual states the use of a Taser should be determined according to the circumstances, and there must be a risk of serious injury to a person before a Taser is deployed. The officer must verbally warn the subject where practicable, and consider where a subject may fall once the device has been used.

A Taser should not be used:

  • against someone passively resisting (i.e. refusing to move or acting as a dead weight);
  • against someone in handcuffs, unless there are exceptional circumstances;
  • as a crowd-control measure;
  • on someone in a vehicle or using machinery where there is a risk of the vehicle or machinery going out of control;
  • against children or adults of small stature, except in extreme circumstances where there is no other reasonable option to avoid the imminent risk of serious injury;
  • against females suspected of being pregnant, except in extreme circumstances where there is no other reasonable option to avoid imminent risk of serious injury;
  • near explosive or flammable materials;
  • to coerce someone to move;
  • to rouse someone who is unconscious, impaired or intoxicated;
  • where there is a likelihood of significant secondary injuries from a fall;
  • on an elderly person, except in extreme circumstances where there is no other reasonable option to avoid imminent risk of serious injury.

Deaths from use

Multiple of prolonged deployments of a Taser by police have been linked to deaths, especially where:

  • restraints or chemical sprays were used;
  • the subject had underlying health conditions such as heart problems;
  • the subject was under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • the subject was struggling violently for a sustained period;
  • there was a combination of these factors.

Indigenous people are more likely to suffer from underlying health conditions and so are at a greater risk of adverse health effects from a Taser being deployed on them.

Reporting use

Any deployment of a Taser by an officer during an incident must be recorded to Police Communications so the details can be recorded on the official police Computer Aided Dispatch database. The officer who used the Taser must complete a “Use of Force Report”. All Taser deployments are reviewed to determine whether the use of the Taser was in accordance with police policy and procedures. If the deployment was inappropriate or not in accordance with policy, the officer can be referred to the Ethical Standards Command.

For advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Sally Crosswell

This article was written by Sally Crosswell

Sally Crosswell has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), a Bachelor of Communication and a Master of International and Community Development. She also completed a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the College of Law. A former journalist, Sally has a keen interest in human rights law.

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