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Police Tasers to get cameras

Date

Christopher Knaus

Tasers in the ACT will be equipped with video cameras to allow for greater scrutiny of the controversial devices.

ACT Policing has confirmed it is buying high definition cameras to record the moments leading up to a Taser's use, which will allow for a more rigorous assessment and review process. The existing stock of Tasers will be upgraded to house a Taser cam, according to an ACT Policing spokesman.

The move was welcomed yesterday by the Australian Federal Police Association and Civil Liberties Australia, who were critical of the wider rollout of Tasers.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman's office, which provides external scrutiny of the use of force by Canberra's police, said the cameras would help ensure the devices were used only where ''appropriate and necessary''.

AFPA chief executive officer Jim Torr said the cameras would act as a protection for its members, and highlight the integrity of officers and their responsible use of the weapons.

But he did raise some concerns with the technology.

''There's concern of footage being selectively edited, but we have to put our efforts into ensuring that the full picture emerges,'' Mr Torr said.

''[But] we support the rollout of it, it'll assist us when complaints are made and the cameras prove there was no justification, or that the member acted reasonably.''

Civil Liberties Australia director Tim Vines said the cameras would help ensure the weapons weren't used improperly. But Mr Vines said officers must be properly trained to use the cameras, citing incidents in Queensland where officers had obstructed the recordings.

''In theory they provide an excellent piece of evidence about their use, and they've been used to justify the use of Tasers, and they've also been used by defendants when they challenge the police version of events,'' Mr Vines said.

''One of our concerns has been in Queensland. The training that was given to police on how to hold a Taser actually involved them holding it in such a way as to cover the video camera.

''So it's a very good step that they're bringing more accountability … but I guess we've got to see that the actual way that officers are trained to use the Taser gives effect to the inclusion of the camera.''

There will not be any expanded rollout of Tasers to new members of the force, and it is not clear when the cameras will become operational.

''Since the introduction of the conducted energy weapon to the front line of ACT Policing, the incorporation of the Taser cam has been given active consideration,'' an ACT Policing spokesman said.

''A decision has been made to introduce Taser cam, and ACT Policing is in the process of upgrading its stock of conducted energy weapons to accommodate a camera option.

''The procurement of the new conducted energy weapon has commenced, but at this stage, the rollout of these weapons to frontline ACT Policing has not commenced as members will be required to undergo training with the new device.''

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