When Can Police Use A Taser? (Vic)
Taser is the brand name of a “conducted electrical weapon” used by certain police In Victoria. It is a hand-held device that can temporarily incapacitate a person and cause pain through the application of electrical impulses.
Carrying a Taser
In Victoria, Tasers are used by the Critical Incident Response Team and Special Operations Group. Under the Control of Weapons Act 1990, a permit is required to possess a prohibited weapon, such as a Taser, but police officers in these units are granted an exemption from this. However, officers must be trained and certified to use the device.
Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT)
CIRT’s role is to support front-line police in resolving high-risk incidents. It can:
- provide negotiators in incidents involving hostages, suicide risk, or terrorism;
- close personal protection for internationally protected people, international dignitaries, or holders of high public office;
- provide specialist support at major events;
- help investigation units in executing search warrants and arrests;
- provide a specialist response to illegal drug labs.
Special Operations Group (SOG)
SOG’s role is to deal with armed offenders and counter-terrorism responses, being highly trained in anti-terrorism tactics, entering buildings and conducting high-risk searches. SOG responds to unplanned critical incidents such as sieges, hostage situations and bomb responses. It also helps police units in planned operations to apprehend dangerous suspects.
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 because 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 incapacitation of someone.
The Taser is programmed to emit electrical current for 5 seconds when the trigger is pressed and released. Five seconds is the standard operational period for Taser deployment but the operator can shorten this period by using a safety lever or prolong it by holding the trigger continuously.
Criteria for use
CIRT and SOG Taser use policies state a Taser can be used only in circumstances where:
- death or serious injury to a person is imminent;
- the incident cannot be resolved without the use of force;
- other options using less force have been explored but are ineffective or inappropriate.
The policies states Tasers should not be used on the elderly, pregnant women or children, except in “extreme circumstances”.
Unlike policies for other states, there is no mention of Taser use against people with mental health, heart or lung problems, or people under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Any deployment of a Taser by an officer during an incident must be recorded on a police force response database. When a Taser is deployed, the device records the time, date, temperature and status of each discharge. This data must also be downloaded and included in the Taser-use report.
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