Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Ban Tasers – End Police Brutality

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Graphic footage has emerged of a man who was tasered 13 times by West Australian (WA) police while in custody in 2008. The footage shows the police yelling at the man “do you want to go again” while he is writhing on the floor in pain from previous electric shocks. This has come out at the same time as a NSW man died after being tasered by police and has again highlighted police brutality and the ‘misuse’ of tasers in Australia.

By Socialist Party reporters Perth

In the case of Kevin Spratt, the man who was tasered 13 times, a Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) report found there was no physical threat to police prior to the taser being used. Spratt had been arrested and was detained at the East Perth watch house. He had complied with police requests to remove his belt and earring. The officers became aggressive when Spratt refused to agree to a strip search and held onto the armrest of the bench he was seated on.

Spratt was surrounded by nine officers who threatened him with the taser if he refused to let go of the bench. He continued to hold on and the taser was deployed. The police then proceeded to taunt and repeatedly taser Spratt, nine times on camera and then a further five times off camera, in behaviour akin to that of violent thugs.

Police have since released a flow chart detailing the previous offences of Spratt in an attempt to show that he was a violent criminal and lessen sympathy from the public. However the issue is not the criminal history of Spratt but the unacceptable way in which police tortured a man who posed no physical threat at the time he was viciously attacked.

Tasers were originally introduced as a ‘non-lethal’ alternative to firearms to be used in dangerous and life threatening situations. However, recent reports on taser use show that they are increasing being used as a tool of compliance where there is no threat of injury. In fact, the CCC report showed that in WA there has been no decrease in injuries to police with the increased use of tasers. The report also showed that tasers are being used in situations they were not intended for.

This brutal display by police has again raised the issues of police violence and harassment. Police are supposedly there to ‘serve’ the community, however, the community has no control over the police or the weapons they use. The outrage surrounding this case has brought into question controversial ‘stop and search’ laws in WA, where police will have the power to search members of the public with absolutely no need for a reason. If we can’t trust the police with their current powers, how can we trust them with more?

It is clear that police will continue to use tasers as a tool of compliance and that this will lead to further instances of brutality and deaths. There needs to be community control of police, through democratically elected local authority police committees. These committees should have the ability to investigate and act on allegations of police brutality, and have control over the distribution of weapons, such as tasers, with distribution based on proven need. We must put an end to police violence and harassment.