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Police shooting fuels Taser debate

Angus Hohenboken and Sanna Trad | December 22, 2008

Article from:  The Australian

A JUNIOR police officer who shot a woman threatening police with a knife in Sydney yesterday was authorised to use a firearm but not a Taser.

The NSW Police Association reacted with frustration to news of the shooting, saying it was absurd that officers qualified to use lethal weapons were not trusted with the "less-than-lethal alternative".

The critical incident team has launched an investigation into the actions of a 35-year-old female police constable after she shot the 48-year-old twice at a house in North Parramatta in Sydney's west.

Police were called to the home at about 1.30am after receiving reports the woman had attacked a 23-year-old man with a knife.

Police said capsicum spray was used on the woman after she allegedly threatened them, but that she continued to lunge forward with the knife. The junior officer, who has been with the force for two years, then fired numerous shots, leaving the woman in a critical condition.

Acting North West Region Commander Karen Webb said Taser guns were not available to junior officers.

"As I understand there were no officers on last night that had been trained with Tasers ... and certified," she said. "Tasers have been issued to each of the 80 local area commands across the state and it's a question of those police that have been trained and certified being available at the time to be able to use them."

Commander Webb would not comment on where or how many times the woman had been shot or whether the officer had followed correct protocol, but said the officer was expected to resume work in the near future.

NSW Police Association secretary Peter Remfrey yesterday reiterated the association's long-held view that Tasers should be available to all operational officers.

"If it's a situation of people's lives being in danger, police are trained to shoot at the body mass and their ammunition and weapons are designed to be lethal," Mr Remfrey said.

"We can't understand why there is any reluctance at the moment to issue a less than lethal option, being the Taser, to officers who are already trained and equipped to lethal force."

The woman was taken to Westmead Hospital with a bullet lodged next to her spine. Her condition later yesterday was described as serious but stable.

The 23-year-old man, reported to be a heavyweight boxer, was treated at the same hospital for a neck laceration allegedly sustained in the initial confrontation with the woman.

The incident came less than two weeks after 15-year-old Tyler Cassidy was shot dead by three police officers at a Melbourne skatepark after he allegedly threatened to kill them with a knife.

NSW Premier Nathan Rees said he would not push for wider distribution of Tasers until

the weapon had been properly trialled.

"If there were a case down the track after we'd rushed to such a policy and someone did die as a result of a Taser, then we'd have all the usual recriminations that you would expect," Mr Rees said.

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