When Can Police Use A Taser? (WA) | Armstrong Legal

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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.

When Can Police Use A Taser? (WA)


Taser is the brand name of a “conducted electrical weapon” used by Western Australia Police. It is a hand-held device that can temporarily incapacitate a person and cause pain through the application of electrical impulses.

A Taser must only be used to reduce a threat and gain control of a subject where there is a real and imminent risk of serious injury to any person.

Carrying a Taser

A Taser can be used by a police officer who has been trained and certified to use the device. Recertification in Taser use must be completed annually.

Police must not carry the device in a courthouse, correctional centre or detention centre but in some circumstances can carry one in a mental health ward. Other situations where police should not carry a Taser include where its carriage poses a risk to security or safety, such as during hostage or suicide negotiations, a raid on a drug lab, or a rescue operation. An officer must not leave the device unattended in a vehicle unless the device is secured in an approved gun safe inside the vehicle.

Taser 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 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

Under WA Police procedures, the purpose of using a Taser is to temporarily incapacitate a person so there is an opportunity to safely approach, secure and control them. A police officer must verbally warn the subject where practicable. An officer is held accountable for any use of the device but greater scrutiny is applied when it is used on:

  • a person who has a known, suspected or claimed heart condition;
  • a person who displays signs of excited delirium;
  • a person who has known, suspected or claimed mental health issues;
  • a person who does not recover from Taser use within a reasonable time;
  • a women who is known to be, suspected of, or claims to be pregnant;
  • a person near explosive materials, flammable liquids or gases;
  • a person in or near water, due to the risk of drowning;
  • a person in an elevated position, due to the risk of falling;
  • a person operating a vehicle or machinery;
  • a person who is handcuffed;
  • a child.

If a person has a known, suspected or claimed heart condition; is displaying signs of excited delirium or trouble breathing; or has fallen in an uncontrolled way and their head has hit a hard surface with significant force, the officer must treat the incident as a medical emergency and call and ambulance. Medical care must be provided immediately if the person does not recover from Taser use within a reasonable time, asks for medical care, is reasonably suspected of suffering from a medical condition, or has the Taser probes embedded in a sensitive body part.

Reporting use

Any deployment of a Taser by an officer during an incident must be reported as soon as possible to a supervisor and the officer who used the device must complete a Use of Force Report. Data from the device must also be downloaded.  All Taser deployments are reviewed to determine whether the use of the device 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 Professional Standards unit.

Breaches

If there is unauthorised use of a Taser, the officer involved is automatically suspended from using a Taser while the incident is investigated. If the Taser had been stored in a “loaded” state when the incident occurred, the officer’s qualification is automatically suspended and remedial training is ordered to be completed as soon as practicable.

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