Sunday Herald Sun editorial: Arm cops with tasers

Published 10 March 2019.

THE Sunday Herald Sun is proud to support the hardworking men and women of Victoria Police. Those officers who keep this community safe are in many ways the unsung heroes of this state.

They are the ones who deal with the bleakest elements of society — death, grief, violence and heartbreak.

It is our police who hold the front line, who go to work every day to keep the order that is so vital to a civilised society,

And it is for this reason that the Sunday Herald Sun today supports a new push for our rank-and-file police officers to get Tasers.

To put it bluntly, if it helps keep police safe and the public safe, then we will be behind it.

This push by the Police Association Victoria to rapidly expand the rollout of Tasers must get the support of command and the state government.

It seems every week we are seeing another brutal incident on our streets

— from a police officer being attacked to violence between members of the public.

Just two weeks ago we saw the awful attack on police at St Kilda where an officer had his head smashed into the pavement.

While the courts will decide that case, having every police officer with a Taser may make such incidents less likely.

These “conducted energy devices” have a proven track record of stopping violent offenders without the need for deadly force.

As it stands Tasers are only issued to a select group of officers, including the Critical Incident Response Team, Special Operations Group and some in regional areas such as Mildura, Warrnambool, Wangaratta and Geelong.

Police in NSW and Queensland have far greater access to Tasers than those in Victoria.

Indeed, every single frontline officer in Queensland has in the past decade been issued a Taser.

It’s time to rectify that inconsistency and ensure all Victorian officers have access to sublethal weaponry.

They need it to keep us and themselves safe, with official figures showing there were 3000 separate attacks on police in the past year alone.

These figures speak to the dangers on the beat and to a staggering lack of respect for police officers.

By giving police greater resources to protect themselves and the community, we may ultimately lower the number of attacks against frontline officers.

Tasers help “promote compliance” and create “a safer environment”, according to Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt, who explains today that other options available to police such as capsicum spray and batons are limited in their usefulness and not appropriate in many circumstances.

“Other tactical options available to police such as OC spray and batons are limited in their application and in some circumstances are simply not appropriate due to the environment and the potential to impact people peripheral to the scene.,” Mr Gatt says.

“The more options police have, the safer the outcomes.”

He adds: “Conducted energy devices provide a valuable tactical option for our members during dynamic situations.”

Increasingly, the criminal class has become emboldened when facing police and many have no qualms about launching violent attacks.

Perhaps if police were armed with a Taser, these louts would think twice about throwing a punch or aggressively resisting arrest.

This year two PSOs were criticised heavily for failing to come to the aid of two teens being robbed and bashed outside Wyndham Vale train station.

The PSOs were outnumbered 20 to two but if they had been armed with Tasers it may have been a different outcome.

Tasers deliver a shock that is painful and immediately incapacitates an offender without causing them long term harm.

In modern policing they are a necessity, not a luxury.

The safety of police members and the community is reason enough to heed the Police Association’s call.

We note that the state government, to its credit, has in the past shown a willingness to satisfy such police requests.

With the association calling for Tasers we expect Victoria police command to make a formal request and for the Daniel Andrews Government to grant it.

Today, we call on command and the government to support this request from the Police Association of Victoria.