She said the latest incident also showed there may still be issues with training. One of the officers on the scene when her brother died was criticised for his “wild and uncontrolled” use of a Taser, despite only recently finishing the course.
“My feeling in [last week’s] case was the [senior constable] was probably a bit overwhelmed by the situation, which indicates that there probably wasn’t a lot of training,” Laudisio said. “In my brother’s case, it was just a bunch of young [officers] who attended the scene.”
Former police officer George Hateley, who used to distribute Tasers in Australia, agreed the incident raised questions about the adequacy of training, which should be so thorough that even in moments of stress, officers can recall it immediately.
“It’s like muscle memory,” he said. “If you’re in a room full of obstacles, if someone might be hurt or fall in boiling water or a fire, you’ve got to make an assessment. Under pressure, under stress, you always revert to your training.”
Criminal defence lawyer Danny Eid represented NRL player Curtis Scott, who was handcuffed and tasered by police while drunk in a Sydney park in early 2020. The charges against him were ultimately dropped.
Scott was Tasered while handcuffed and too drunk to stand, which Eid said was against the standard operating procedures for the use of stun guns.
“The police haven’t disclosed all of the facts, but one could say, on the information currently available, the discharge of the Taser in Cooma [seems] inappropriate,” he said.
He said the “defensive” culture of NSW Police has not helped them reassure the public after last Wednesday’s incident. “It’s not an organisation that readily apologises,” said Eid, a former police officer.
“I accept we don’t know all the facts yet but, really, the best way to deal with this is by coming forward and saying ’we are sorry.”
“If police want the public to have faith in them, they have to discharge their duties properly. The transparency, the accountability, has to change; this has to be the scenario that changes it.”
As the Herald revealed on Monday, the senior constable involved in the incident once unlawfully detained a suspect during an encounter in which his shift partner allegedly threatened to break the man’s legs.
“Part of this investigation around the Mrs Nowland matter will take into account the officer’s history,” Police Commissioner Karen Webb told Today on Nine.
“It’ll be a very complete, full investigation and an urgent review into that officer’s history and his current work status.”
Meanwhile, research by Deakin University criminologist Emma Ryan has found Australian police forces provide less public information about the use of Tasers – or Conducted Energy Weapons – than in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
“Transparency is very bad in this country, comparatively,” she said.
“The police are ultimately answerable to the public, but if the public doesn’t know about the contours of Taser use, the frequency, the mode, how often are they aimed at people, there’s no opportunity to keep them accountable.”
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