Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Melbourne metro GDs police take up Tasers

General duties police officers in metropolitan Melbourne are carrying Tasers for the first time, as the state’s rollout to the frontline gathers pace.

Police at Dandenong and Springvale were the first to get the new devices, with around 160 officers completing training at the Victoria Police Academy.

“Putting these devices in the hands of general duties police in Melbourne is a crucial milestone in our rollout to the frontline,” said Victoria Police Chief Commissioner, Shane Patton.

“They give police and PSOs crucial middle ground in dealing with high-risk, volatile situations.

“More often than not merely drawing a Taser is enough to bring a situation to a safe conclusion.

“In many ways they are a negotiation tool. They’re about less force, not more.”

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton.

Victoria Police say the devices are already proving invaluable, with Tasers drawn to safely arrest multiple suspects including a man wielding a machete in a pizza shop and a sex offender who taunted police with a pickaxe and hammer before arming himself with a knife.

“In a handful of more serious instances Tasers have been deployed. They include a man who allegedly grabbed at a police officer’s gun, another man armed with a knife who allegedly punched an officer in the face and an accused carjacker who violently resisted arrest after an erratic driving spree,” Victoria Police said in a statement.

The next generation Axon Taser T7 devices selected for the rollout are linked to an officer’s body worn camera. The camera will start recording as soon as the Taser is drawn and the safety switch turned off. The footage will include what happened in the 30 seconds prior to the device being drawn.

The cameras of police and PSOs nearby will also be activated if they’re not already recording, Victoria Police said.

“All police and PSOs getting a Taser will undergo rigorous training which includes Victoria Police’s strict protocols on when a Taser can and can’t be used as well as a series of reality-based scenarios where officers must make decisions and perform constant risk assessments under pressure.”

A dozen Taser training centres have been established and are now in operation, with around 40 Taser instructors and assistant instructors employed.

Alongside Dandenong and Springvale police stations, the Public Order Response Team is being equipped with Tasers for the first time.

The Critical Incident Response Team, Special Operations Group and general duties police at 36 24-hour and 16-hour regional stations are simultaneously having their existing Tasers replaced.

So far, 1,200 general duties police from these regional areas have completed training required to upgrade to new devices.

Victoria Police’s specialist officers have been safely using the devices for 20 years.

“The community should be assured any officer carrying a Taser will undergo rigorous training whether they’re having an existing device replaced or getting one for the first time,” said Chief Commissioner Patton.

“The next generation devices Victoria Police has selected also activate an officer’s body worn camera if it’s not already recording.

“That means there’s an independent record of what occurred – whether the Taser was deployed or not.”

The rollout to remaining police and protective services officers will begin in April, starting with regional areas which haven’t had Tasers before.

It’s expected the entire rollout to more than 10,300 frontline police and PSOs will be complete by September 2026.

Highway Patrol and transit police are included in the $214 million rollout.

Around 320 metropolitan and regional police stations will receive a fitout to facilitate storing the devices.

The Special Operations Group has had Tasers since 2004 and the Critical Incident Response Team since 2005. Frontline police based at numerous regional stations were equipped with them following a trial which began in 2010.

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