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.