Suppose you are a police officer and you and a fellow officer are called to a nursing home that specializes in residents with higher care needs including dementia because staff reported that a resident had taken a steak knife from the kitchen. When you get there you see a diminutive 95-year old woman coming slowly towards you using a walker and carrying a knife. How do you deal with the situation?
My guess is that you do not take out your Taser and zap her. And yet that is what one officer did. As a result, the woman fell and hit her head on the ground and is now in hospital in a critical condition.
What is surprising is that this did not take place in the US which is notorious for police over-reacting and using excessive force instead of deescalating situations, but in a town in Australia.
Police Assistant Commissioner Peter Cotter declined to say whether he thought a police officer with 12 years’ experience used excessive force by firing a stun gun at Nowland, who is 1.57 meters (5 feet, 2 inches) tall and weighs 43 kilograms (95 pounds).
Cotter said police engaged in “negotiations” with Nowland for several minutes and used the stun gun when she approached the doorway where the officers were standing.
“At the time she was tasered, she was approaching police. But it is fair to say at a slow pace. She had a walking frame. But she had a knife. I can’t take it any further as to what was going through anyone’s mind,” Cotter told reporters.
Nicole Lee, president of the advocacy group People with Disability Australia, said she was shocked by the police response.
“She’s either one hell of an agile, fit, fast and intimidating 95-year-old woman, or there’s a very poor lack of judgment on those police officers and there really needs to be some accountability on their side,” Lee said.
I blame Monty Python. It is clear that the police officer thought that one of their sketches was a training video.
You can tell it’s not the US because had it been the five foot 95 year old with the walking frame would have died in a hail of bullets.
Deepak Shetty says
I dont know when the perception (not necessarily the reality) within the police changed from the police are supposed to give up their life protecting the people to the police should favor their own safety over that of the people.
The first mistake was calling the police.
@2: I work in the chemical industry. It can be dangerous. An important principle is that everyone has the right to expect to go home to their families uninjured.
Do police officers not have the same right?
Soldiers obviously don’t… But don’t we want police to be less like soldiers?
Of course in this case you have to wonder why they didn’t just throw a blanket over her. How big are the officers?
“A police officer with 12 years’ experience” is probably in their thirties with a corresponding reaction time, and could just have taken the knife from the 95-year old, before she would have known what was going on.
Armchair senseis are quite annoying.
I’ve done a bunch of different martial arts in my life. One of my better teachers was asked by another student about defence against knives. “Next week, knife defence”. He turned up with a bag. Out came the rubber knives. For most of an hour and a half we dutifully practiced what we were shown. Then he said “now for real…”. Out of the bag came… marker pens. And we tried to practice what we’d been shown. Nobody left with a clean gi. One lad was pretty good though, so the teacher walked up behind him and”stabbed”him in the back when he wasn’t looking.
The lessons we all learned were simple:
-- you probably won’t see the knife
-- whatever you’ve been taught, whatever your physical advantage over your opponent, if you go bare handed against a knife, YOU ARE GETTING STABBED, or at best cut.
So… don’t be where a knife is, and if you see one, RUN.
Cops here didn’t have that option. They had others below a taser, though. Very poor training.
The officer was probably afraid that she would overpower him.
Marcus Ranum says
Note how it is described: using a walker and carrying a knife. A competent person could have maintained distance -- even a cop can outrun a walker -- while asking her what she thought she was doing with the knife, etc. The language of “de-escalation” reveals a presumption that one is in a conflict situation. Cops need to not “de-escalate” they need to understand the situation before they do anything.
The way police-involved events are described I’m sure that she was not being aggressive, or it would have been “tried to stab an officer.” And it was American cops “…. an ARCLIGHT strike was called in and an MSF hospital was also hit.”
John Morales says
Your cynicism is warranted, though perhaps not sufficient. It is pretty bad.
(Bit of a defensive vibe there)
“I’m not sure why people would want to see that”
Isn’t it obvious? So we can jump to a conclusion without having all the evidence, then shoot our uninformed opinions into the Internet, of course. Duh.
Talk of de-escalation presupposes facts not in evidence. Do we know she could hear them? Do we know she could understand them? Do we know she wasnt suffering from dementia, and thus not able to process the incoming information even if she could hear and understand? Do we know she hadn’t made threats? No. We know none of those things. And body camera footage wouldn’t necessarily tell us these things.
chigau (違う) says
cool story bro
but comparing your machoshithead “dojo”
to trained LOE taking on a 95 pound, walker-dependent, demented woman is just daft.
“the family did not want it released publicly.”
Interesting. I can think of a couple of reasons for that. The dignity of the old lady is one. The possibility that immediately before she was tased she was shouting “fucking bastard pigs I’m going to gut you if I get my hands on you” is another. The latter is not a situation I’d put past my late great-grandmother, for example, who in her later years lost all inhibitions. Dementia is a cruel condition.
It wasn’t a “dojo”, it was a community centre sports hall. And it was very much not “machoshithead”. Indeed, if you think about it for even a moment, it would be apparent that the entire point of that lesson was specifically to counter any burgeoning machoshithead fantasy of taking on a knife-wielding opponent with your mad skillz (with a z). The teacher had obviously had the “what about a pointed stick?” question before, and wanted to demonstrate clearly to everyone that what we were doing in that room was exercising, and that nobody should leave the room with illusions of being Bruce Lee. Hence the amount of time drilling “techniques”, then a clear demonstration that trying to apply them in the real world will get you injured or killed.
And I’ll repeat that I agree any reasonably creative and imaginative LEO should have been able, given a few minutes (and it sounds like the confrontation went on for a few minutes), to identify a safe way of subduing her without the taser. I suggested chucking a blanket over her, but again, I wasn’t there, and neither were you.
(Aside: I have been, briefly (two or three months), in a “machoshithead ‘dojo'”, with a teacher who I’m reasonably confident would teach “knife defence” with a straight face. I didn’t hang about. Most martial arts teachers in my experience, not coincidentally especially “traditional” arts and especially since the rise of MMA, don’t try to pretend what they’re is about being able to fight in the real world.)
chigau (違う) says
If it was not a “dojo”, why were you wearing a “gi”?
It’s cute you’re hitting it off with sonofroj. Having a nice day?
chigau (違う) says
why are you using someone else’s blog to attack me?
I ship you two actually. Maybe you could go off and have an argument about who has the least authentic idea of a dojo happily ever after.
chigau (違う) says
OMG you need help.
Do your care-givers know what you are doing?
But having video footage, rather than having to rely on verbal accounts from the very people that have a reason to present things favourably to themselves, is the only way we could possibly get an objective idea of events. That said, I’m not sure the general public needs the footage, but the investigators -- and courts, when they inevitably get involved -- certainly need it.
Continuing an argument in this thread from an earlier one, which itself was an argument continued from an entirely separate blog…? You are a petty, vindictive wanker.
@14: “If it was not a “dojo”, why were you wearing a “gi”?”
Er… because that’s what those things are called? As to why they were being worn for that activity rather than, e.g. t-shirts, I’d guess moychandising. Teacher’s gotta make their money, right?
@15 ^ 17:
Video is always an accurate record of something that actually happened, right?
Do you honestly think that is a realistic fear? Police attempting to make a scene more lurid with AI edits? Come on man.
The police officer has been charged with “recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.”
It seems incongruous to state that one will not watch the (?only) pictures of an event until one has a complete picture of the event.
Does that give an automatic ‘out’ if a complete picture of the event is elusive?
“Back in May of 2023 I stated that I would not view the body-cam video of the event until I had a complete picture of the event.
I have not been able to form a complete picture of the event, so I will not watch the video of the event, the viewing of which could assist in my formation of a more complete picture of the event”
The video may not show the event in its entirety, but it will no doubt reveal just how fast* she was approaching them, enough for the commissioner to assess the actual threat to the police or bystanders and judge on the appropriateness of the police response.
*I hope a super-slow-motion camera was used otherwise they may miss the severity of the attack of a slow-moving, knife-weilding, mobility-aided nonagenarian..
By the way, I don’t think that the video should be made public. But I do expect those charged with the review of the event to review ALL the evidence. Video of the event is an important piece of the evidence.
Sonofrojblake. Well, I didn’t appreciate until now just how pretty Arnie was as a young woman! But I gotta say they did a better job faking the Apollo landings. At least they made them believable.
John Morales says
prl @22, indeed. And on-topic.
Notably, in that article the sidebar notes “The officer is suspended from duty with pay while investigations into the incident continue”.
(Prospects are not good, because this is not the USA)
sonofrojblake, mate! Give it up. Especially the silly dojo thing, and the anecdotes.
(Hey, I did a few years’ worth of this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uechi-Ry%C5%AB and stopped at brown belt with two black stripes. Only a couple of cracked ribs, cracked wrist, and ruptured testicle the worse for it, plus the permanent bruises on the forearms and shins from the arm-pounding. Oh, yeah — I wore a gi
Ah, the joy of punching and kicking and having that snap! sound with the loose cloth).
Not just any video. Police bodycam video, with all that entails, including provenance.
(Do you really mean to suggest that police bodycam video is not reliable?)
Further update: Mrs Nowland has now died.
Then I guess that the charges will be upgraded to include manslaughter.
He was suspended on full pay yesterday Australian time, the day before the charges were laid.
Funny. I was just having a very similar conversation with my 7 year old after he hit his sister in retaliation for her bothering him. I said that we use our words, not hands. He starts asking “What if she doesn’t listen? What if she does it again? What if she tattles on me? What if… What if… What if…” I said that even if all those things are true, you still try to use your words. You don’t just give up on doing the right thing because you assume it won’t work.
I’m hoping he learns this lesson soon, though it seems that some adults still struggle with it.
@21: I did wonder if anyone would be so obtuse as to only respond to the second video, the one that’s obviously a joke. You win, Holms!
@tuatara, 23: ” I do expect those charged with the review of the event to review ALL the evidence” -- do you have ANY reasons to suspect they might not?
@JM, 24: “Do you really mean to suggest that police bodycam video is not reliable?” -- Yes.
@ OverlappingMagisteria, 28:
“even if all those things are true, you still try to use your words”. Absolutely. You try. And you keep trying, right up to the point where you have to render the fucker unconscious. Because your right to swing your fist ends an inch in front of my nose.
Is he getting paid, or not?
And if not, can he still go gigging with his Aryan Reggae Band? (3 points for spotting the reference).
All other reports I’ve seen, including previous reporting from the Guardian and the most recent reporting from ABC News in Australia, say that he’s suspended with pay. That most recent article in the Guradian is the only one I’ve seen suggesting otherwise. I would assume it’s an error.
Deepak shetty says
@ sonofrojblake @4
Wouldn’t the equivalent occupation be FireFighters ? They can have a reasonable expectation that they would have the right equipment to be as safe as possible and that they and theirs would be taken care of in case something happens and that society should respect people who choose this hazardous occupation -- but it would be unreasonable to expect that they wouldn’t have to put themselves in harms way
The police should not use lethal force unless other lives are at risk and that too if there was no less lethal way to disarm -some even have “To protect and serve” as their motto after all
This may explain a lot
Apologies, I will no longer assume the things you include in your posts have a point.
Oops, that was at #29.
I don’t think so. Firefighters aren’t required to face certain or extremely likely physical injury. Sure, some of them, even a lot of them, would be prepared to -- but it’s not a requirement of the job in the way it is for a member of the armed forces, who can be ordered to carry out a mission that it’s reasonably certain they won’t survive.
Also, even in cases of arson, the dangers firefighters face are not directly other people. (At least, they’re not supposed to be -- per my former brother-in-law there’s a distressing tendency for a certain type of person to report a fire so that they can throw rocks and such at the firefighters who turn up.) If they ever do come into such situations -- they call the cops.
Deepak Shetty says
Which can also happen to the police or even to firefighters. In any case the analogies are closer than comparisons to the chemical industry.
Cops are not supposed to judge , nor dispense justice -- they are supposed to prevent/protect and that prevent/protect should also include perpetrators (barring obvious and reasonable exceptions). If someone is robbing a store , its not reasonable to use lethal force unless some other people are also at risk .
Some of your comments make sense if we also assume that sonofrojblake inhaled toxic fumes as part of their job at an impressionable age
sonofrojblake @ 29.
While we may never know the full story, we do know this:
I don’t know about you, sonofrojblake, but to me this indicates that Clare Nowland had been contained/avoided by care home staff and paramedics for ‘some time’ before the police arrived. It also indicates that she was NOT some fucker needing to be rendered unconscious! And yet, within just a few minutes of her interaction with police, she was assessed as a grave threat and assaulted violently by them.
She is now dead from the injuries she sustained in her interaction with police. We should now turn our thoughts to what turmoil the police officer involved is going through.
So, to be frank, your comment disappoints me.
Oh, and yes, I do expect a police commissioner to review the actions of their staff. That the NSW police commissioner stated that she would only conditionally view the footage instils in me the view that the review will not be thorough enough to shed light on the paucity of police training (at least not publicly), which, to me at least, is unacceptable. Others may unfortunately not share my sentiment.
I’d expect that the commissioner would hold an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mrs Nowland, but conducting such inquiries while there is also an ongoing criminal process can cause legal difficulties. But if there is such an inquiry, I don’t see why the commissioner would necessarily be directly involved.
The police criminal investigation seems to have been timely and has resulted in serious charges being brought against the officer. The most serious charge laid so far, reckless grievous bodily harm, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. Other posters have noted that the investigation is now with the New South Wales Police homicide squad, and that might lead to more serious charges, like manslaughter, where the maximum sentence is 25 years.
I’d expect that the commissioner would hold an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mrs Nowland
Depends on the jurisdiction. In Ontario an incident like that would automatically go to a civilian review agency the Special Investigations Unit or SIU . No one in the police line of command would be involved.
The SIU is far from perfect but it is an independent body.
John Morales says
jrkrideau, it may depend on the jurisdiction, but the jurisdiction here is rather specific and known. Fixed, not a variable.
In short, it was not some general claim about some jurisdiction somewhere, but about the specifically applicable jurisdiction.
(A fucking long way from Ontario!)
I’d expect that a Coronial inquest will be held into Mrs Nowlland’s death. The NSW Coroners Act says:
The Coroner is independent of the police and has powers to subpoena witnesses.
I would also expect that there will be an internal police investigation, though I don’t think that either that or an inquest has been announced.
In what jurisdiction? Nowhere civilised, for sure.
As for the last -- “ah. Abuse.”
@36 -- I agree entirely that in this case, the woman was most likely no immediate threat and having been contained up to that point, could have been contained indefinitely. I’m very much on board with the idea that the officer wildly over-reacted due most likely to a combination of poor training and bad attitude. All of this is speculation.
A somewhat similar case in the UK. Two teenage boys (ages 15 and 16) on an electric bike crashed and died in Cardiff; this was followed by an anti-police riot. The police initially issued a misleading (if not, technically, false) statement saying “false rumours” that police had been chasing the boys led to the riot. CCTV then emerged showing that a police car was indeed following the boys (apparently at some speed), shortly before the crash. They still claim there were no police on the road where the crash occurred at the time it happened -- but since they concealed the police involvement until the video emerged, their credibility is a little suspect. However, I suspect sonofrojblake would be defending the police even if they had deliberately run the boys down and then reversed over them. Can’t be too careful.
I’m not defending the police in that case. They were catastrophically stupid to deny involvement. They definitely knew they’d been in pursuit of that bike. It is moronic in the extreme to do anything other than admit, immediately, that yes, relatively recently they’d been following the bike. Trying to pretend they weren’t even in the area is just dumb beyond words.
However, the CCTV released shows a number of things:
1. the police were indeed the next vehicle down the road after the ebike.
2. the bike was clearly speeding in a built-up residential area, illegally
3. the gap between the bike and the van was considerable -- it wasn’t exactly “hot pursuit”.
4. the riders were riding illegally, without crash helmets.
5. there were two of them on a bike pretty clearly not designed with pillion riding in mind
Also, the undisputed site of the crash was approximately 100m from the bollards where the pursuit effectively ended, as the criminals had gone down a road where the police couldn’t follow.
All this and comments from locals lead me to some preliminary assumptions, which I’m ready to have corrected by evidence:
1. the riders were trying to evade police because they knew they were riding illegally. Police are justified in pursuing in such cases, or traffic laws are entirely pointless.
2. the crash was NOT the fault of the police van, since it had been unable to follow them to where they crashed AND THEY KNEW IT. If they had a collision with anything at that point, it’s entirely on them.
3. the locals are nevertheless blaming police for their deaths, and using it as a pretext to burn and destroy other people’s property.
It’s also telling that no news report states clearly which of the riders was the legal owner of the bike. From this it’s not unreasonable to speculate that they may have stolen it.
The conclusion I draw from this is I’m bloody glad I don’t live anywhere near Ely, it sounds horrible. I also draw the conclusion that, while nobody deserves to die for stealing an ebike, riding it illegally without a crash helmet, speeding in a residential area and not pulling over when required to do so by the cops, this sounds very much to me like NOT a case of police harassment, but rather two lads going too far down the “fuck around” axis and intersecting suddenly with the “find out” axis.
Deepak Shetty says
9/11 ? Upwards of 300 firefighters died -- but of course that has nothing to do with being civilised or not (The uncivilised is accurate because the US couldnt even properly provide healthcare for the surviving fighters)
@44: You appear to have completely misunderstood the question.
The query was: in what civilised jurisdiction are firefighters able to be ordered into a situation which will definitely or be highly likely to kill them, in the way that soldiers can be legally ordered to do?
Your response (“9/11”) is baffling on a number of levels.
1. 9/11 is not a jurisdiction, it is a specific incident.
2. it is an incident that did not happen anywhere civilised.
3. the number of firefighters who died in the incident is irrelevant to the point that none of them would/could have been ordered to go into the situations that killed them -- they likely did so voluntarily. As I believe I said already, in post 34:
This is where cops and firefighters are radically different. In Uvalde we’ve seen armed police sit quietly outside a school waiting for the shooting to stop before going in. You won’t have to look far to find stories of firefighters voluntarily putting themselves at mortal risk -- but this is not relevant. Their massive personal moral superiority to police is unrelated to the fact that neither can be ordered to risk their lives, and nor should they be. They are both civilian occupations… unless you want the police to be more like the military, in which case you seem to be getting your wish, but be careful what you wish for.
As for “ah. Abuse”: while they are awaiting their fate on Disaster Area’s stuntship, Arthur, Ford, Trillian and Zaphod discuss the Ultimate Answer. Marvin reveals he can read it from the earthman’s brainwave patterns. Arthur, astonished, says “You can see into my brain?”. Marvin confirms that he can. Arthur says “And??” Marvin responds: “It amazes me you can live in anything so small.” Arthur says “Ah. Abuse.”, and Marvin immediately says “Yes.”
I always found that exchange funny. You reminded me of a depressing plastic simulacrum of a human who’d rather state an insult than make a useful contribution, so y’know -- thanks.
Deepak Shetty says
Im sure you dont me to tell you the jurisdiction in which 9/11 happened. The civilised place is really irrelevant -- Most countries expect firefighters or the police to put the lives of citizens over their own and a good number of them do actually do that -- thats a job requirement , it has nothing to do with civilised. (Society though doesnt fulfill its end of the bargain , thats what makes most socieities uncivilised)
That leaves the “voluntary” and ordered bit . Im not sure what you think happens in emergencies but I think reasonably competent people understand their job requirements and dont need to be ordered -- that doesn’t make their job requirements “voluntary”.
I dont know why you think Uvalde supports your point. The public expected the police to have gone in to save the children , even at risk to their lives. And the Police commissioner or equivalent should have “ordered” them if they werent willing and the police do not have a reasonable expectation in such circumstances to put their own lives ahead of the people who they were sworn to protect.
You are welcome.
Did Mr. Sonofrojblake, Esq., just complain about someone making gratuitous insults?
My god. Irony is dead.
@47: Betteridges law of headlines applies.