Pregnant woman 'Tasered up to eight times'

Claims a woman in her final stage of pregnancy was Tasered up to eight times by WA police officers have added weight to arguments that the weapons are being abused.

Aboriginal Legal Service chief executive officer Dennis Eggington said a small number of police had a Robocop-style mentality when using the stun-guns.

A Corruption and Crime Commission report, tabled in WA Parliament yesterday, found police were using Tasers to get people to comply with their orders, which is against guidelines.

Anecdotal evidence collected by the ALS showed members of the Aboriginal community had been inappropriately Tasered. Mr Eggington said one of the most troubling stories was the weapons being used against a teenage pregnant woman.

The 18-year-old Mount Barker woman was more than seven months pregnant when police used the stun gun up to eight times on her while arresting her boyfriend, he alleged.

"She was kicking up at her boyfriend being arrested and mishandled by police so they ended up trying to calm her down," Mr Eggington said.

"It's escalated into some dispute and they've Tasered her. She had lots of bruises on her from where she was handcuffed and burn marks from the Tasering."

The corruption watchdog found police use of the stun guns on Aboriginal people had doubled in the past two years, and made up 30 per cent of cases in 2009.

"We've known this for some time, we see a lot of other people who have come in suffering burning on their clothes and marks on their body," Mr Eggington said.

"But to have the science and statistics around it is very welcome for us because it's difficult when we, as an Aboriginal group, say 'this is wrong', most people don't want to listen."

While he conceded Tasers were needed to help protect and look after the community, Mr Eggington said their inappropriate use amounted to torture.

"It's torture and that's what we're trying to stamp out," he said.

"There's a small number of police who use them inappropriately and these Robocops don't seem to have any kind of loyalty or respect for the hierarchy and go and do all these things without any regard for anyone."

The inappropriate use of Tasers was highlighted by the CCC in a case where a 39-year-old man was Tasered 13 times while surrounded by nine police in the East Perth watch house. He was unarmed and not threatening them at the time, and the weapon was used to get him to comply with a strip-search order.

A disciplinary hearing fined two senior constables $1200 and $750 but excessive use of force charges were not brought, after the Director of Public Prosecutions advised police to speak to the victim and his ALS legal representative.

Mr Eggington said it was not up to the ALS to bring a criminal case against police officers and that many people were too scared to embark on civil cases against police.

"It's not the ALS that can press charges against the police officers, there's an internal police investigation and if they believe charges should be bought, they send it to the DPP, and the police did not do that," Mr Eggington said.

"Many of our people are terrified and frightened to take civil charges against police because they feel they will be mistreated by police and possibly have Tasers used on them."

He called for police and corrective services officers who have access to Tasers to undergo psychological assessments.

"If you've got public servants, whether it's railway police or whoever, we need to know that they have the right psychological profile where they are not going to misuse Tasers," he said.

Taser report CCC 'grandstanding': Union

Police Union president Russell Armstrong defended WA police in the wake of the CCC report, and appealed to WA Attorney-General Christian Porter not to "handcuff" police officers working on the front line by strengthening the rules surrounding Taser use.

He said the death of a man in Sydney's west last night after being hit with a Taser had not changed his view on the weapon.

"Clearly evidence from Sydney and around the world shows the only ones who have died are the ones who have heart conditions or who are using drugs which compromises the function of their heart," Mr Armstrong said.

"The alternative is if we use our batons and we break someone's arm or leg. The fact is (capsicum) spray doesn't work on people on alcohol and drugs, and the spray affects people standing nearby, including police."

He said the stun guns were a vital part of the police arsenal because an alternative to deadly weapons like firearms were needed.

"I don't want to go back to where our officers have got to make a decision whether or not to use a firearm because the public and some quarters of the community don't want police armed with Tasers," he said.

He did not accept the CCC report, saying the corruption watchdog only looked into the matter to "justify their existence" because they had not previously elected to examine the officers involved in the Perth watch house Taser incident.

"Their success rate hasn't been very good over the years. This is, to me, grandstanding," he said.

"The CCC have come out and blasted the officers for it but they could have done the investigation and they declined that and now they've come out and released the video and slammed WA police for it. I'm amazed and I just think they're trying to justify their existence."

Call for criminal charges against police

Shadow WA Attorney-General John Quigley has called for the DPP to bring criminal charges against the two officers who Tasered the man 13 times and for an examination into the conduct of the other seven officers who watched.

"The DPP should be directing the Commissioner of Police to arrest these officers and charge them with assault occasioning bodily harm," Mr Quigley said.

"We don't know what pressure the victim was put under (not to press charges against police) and if he was scared of the police. If the indigenous person had in any way caused minor harm to any officers there's no doubt charges would have been brought against him."

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