‘Dreadful’: Cops lashed over 95yo’s tasering
The Greens are demanding police release the body camera footage of a “dreadful” incident in which an officer used a Taser on a 95-year-old dementia patient and left her fighting for her life in hospital.
Clare Nowland remains in a critical condition in Cooma District Hospital after she was Tasered at her nursing home in the southern NSW regional town early on Wednesday morning, causing her to fall and hit her head and sustain life-threatening injuries.
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Cotter revealed on Friday the incident had been captured on the officer’s body-worn camera.
Speaking to reporters in Sydney, Mr Cotter described the footage as “confronting”, saying it would form part of an internal probe led by homicide squad detectives but would not be released.
“It forms a significant and integral part of the investigation and it is not in the public interest to be releasing that,” he said.
Mr Cotter said Ms Noland, who is 5’2” and weighs 43kg, was approaching police when she was tasered.
“It is fair to say at a slow pace. She had a walking frame, but she had a knife,” he said.
“I can’t take it any further what was going through anyone’s mind with the use of a Taser. That is for them.”
Greens justice spokesman David Shoebridge criticised police for their handling of the incident and called on them to make the body camera vision available as long as Ms Nowlan’s family consented to its release.
“There needs to be an urgent and public review of this incident by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) that includes, after consultation with the family, the release of the video from the Taser,” he said.
Police have said the internal investigation into the incident will be reviewed by the force’s Professional Standards Command and monitored by the LECC.
Senator Shoebridge accused police of having “assaulted” a highly vulnerable person in need of support, saying it was “hard to fathom” how anyone could think Tasering an elderly woman on a walking frame was a “reasonable use of force”.
“Tasers are a potentially deadly weapon and need to be treated as such, but when the system sends in police that’s too often what they reach for,” he said.
“The structural failing here is dispatching police to the incident when an emergency mental health team should have been available to de-escalate and treat an older women in distress.”
Senator Shoebridge said he was working with NSW state Greens MP Sue Higginson to co-ordinate the party’s formal response to the incident.
Police were called to the Yallambee Lodge in Cooma in the early hours of Wednesday morning to help disarm Ms Nowland, who they say was armed with a serrated steak knife when they arrived at the aged care facility.
Police say they tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with Ms Nowland to get her to drop the knife before she advanced at them, which is when a senior constable with 12 years’ experience deployed his Taser on her.
Ms Nolan then fell to the ground and struck her head.
Police have said the officer who used the Taser has stopped working and is under review.
A Dementia Australia spokeswoman said the organisation had received calls and emails from people living with dementia, as well as their relatives and carers, expressing their “anger and sadness” for Ms Nowland and her family.
“Dementia Australia is not aware of the details of what happened and is unable to comment on the circumstances,” the spokeswoman said.
“While situations like this are rare, tragically this has highlighted the need for everyone working across healthcare industries to receive compulsory education about dementia to increase their understanding, knowledge and skills in dementia care.”