A 95 year old resident of a palliative care home in Cooma is today fighting for her life in hospital after NSW Police officers tasered her not just once but twice - once in the back and once in the chest on Wednesday morning. NSW Police have announced an internal investigation into the incident but repeated use of excessive force by police is causing harm and declining community trust in police.
In 2020-21, NSW Police were forced to pay out $33 million in compensation to victims of police misconduct. This is equal to $1,800 per front-line officer and was from 398 claims by the public, this was 100 more claims than the 2019-20 financial year. The claims include suits for assault, battery, unlawful imprisonment, malicious prosecution, breach of duty, and more.
The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission that is responsible for independent investigations of police misconduct reviews thousands of complaints every year but only investigates 2% of those received. Due to budget and resourcing restrictions, the rest of these complaints are referred back to NSW Police for internal investigation.
Greens MP Sue Higginson and spokesperson for justice said: “This has to be the turning point for policing in NSW. An internal investigation is simply not good enough. We’re seeing a pattern of police response that is causing harm rather than de-escalating situations and providing the necessary care responses to some of our most vulnerable people. It is part of a long term alarming trend of NSW Police using excessive force on people in our communities and then rarely face any consequences.
“Once again the immediate response to this unbelievable incident is for a police investigation to be undertaken by police. We have to stop this. We cannot allow police to go on investigating other police when there has been a report of misconduct.
“Our approach to policing is not fit for purpose - there should be ways for people to get assistance without any risk of violence, such as having social workers and people trained specifically in nonviolent de-escalation that doesn’t involve harming people. If the police are resorting to a taser for a 95 year old woman, there is something deeply wrong.
“It is a failure of the NSW Police, and their standards, policies and training, that a 95 year old dementia patient has been tasered twice while in a care facility. This kind of conduct reflects the years of increases to police powers granted by the NSW Government without ramping up the oversight mechanisms to reflect these increased powers.
“In the last year, public reports and reports received by my office, indicate a litany of failures by NSW Police to discharge their primary duty of protecting the public. The last 12 months have seen a spate of violent policing, including Sydney personality Danny-Lim who was assaulted by police in November last year and a 14 year old First Nations boy who ended up in hospital with head injuries in Coraki in September after police chased him down and arrested him.
“Police also have a dangerous amount of power when it comes to arresting activists, including the unlawful arrest of housing rights activist Cherish Kuehlmann in February after she complied with police orders and a woman was dragged out and arrested at an anti-abortion rally after she confronted protesters calling for body autonomy.
“The NSW Police have also been recently reported for harassing international and domestic visitors that attended World Pride events in Sydney. This targeted and discriminatory approach to policing should be considered a disgusting relic of the past but unfortunately we don’t seem to be making any positive progress.
“These examples are all gravely concerning. I call on the new Police Minister to launch a truly independent inquiry into police misconduct that assesses the root and systemic causes of NSW Police assaulting members of the public and provides recommendations that fundamentally change how police are allowed to act and investigate themselves.
“In the immediate term the NSW Labor Government, and Treasurer Daniel Mookhey, needs to provide the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission with the necessary funding to fully investigate all reports of police misconduct. It is entrenching the attitudes and systemic issues within the NSW Police that allows a 95 year old woman to be assaulted within a care facility,” Ms Higginson said.
For media comment contact: Sue Higginson on 0428 227 363