Australia police not releasing video of 95-year-old’s tasering
Australian police will not release bodycam footage of an officer tasering a 95-year-old great-grandmother with dementia inside her nursing home, a state police chief said Saturday.
The woman, Clare Nowland, is in a critical state in hospital, three days after being shot with an electronic stun gun in a confrontation that shocked Australians and made international headlines.
Officers arrived at Yallambee Lodge in southern New South Wales on Wednesday after being alerted by nursing home staff that a woman was “armed with a knife,” police said.
Police say they urged Nowland to drop the serrated steak knife before she moved toward them “at a slow pace” with the aid of a walking frame, prompting one officer to fire his taser at her.
Asked about political calls for police body-worn video of the tasering to be released, New South Wales police commissioner Karen Webb said: “I am not sure why they want to see it.”
The state police chief said she had only heard the audio from the recording: “I don’t see it necessary that I actually view it,” she told a news conference.
Citing “legislative requirements” surrounding surveillance devices, Webb added: “We don’t intend to release it unless there is a process at the end of this that would allow it to be released.”
An investigation into the firing of the taser “will take time,” she said.
Webb promised the probe would follow “proper process.”
The outlook for Nowland, who has 24 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren, is uncertain, Webb said, after spending time with her family at the hospital on Friday.
“The next few days will be critical and, you know, it’s likely to be very difficult for the family and my condolences and thoughts are with the family at the moment,” the police chief said, adding the family want answers.
Police would “deal with the facts and not speculate” to avoid prejudicing their investigation, she added.
Webb noted it was “quite rare” for police to be called to a nursing home, adding they may need to be “better equipped” to deal with dementia patients.
David Shoebridge, a state senator for the Greens, demanded police release the body-worn video images.
“My reaction, like millions of Australians who have heard this news is shock and disbelief. How can it be reasonable use of force for police to be tasering a 95-year-old woman with dementia in a walking frame in a nursing home?”
Shoebridge said he was joining other New South Wales colleagues to make a “very clear demand” for the state police and government to get the family’s consent to release the bodycam video.
“The public have a right to know what the police did and this cannot be hidden in a police-investigating-police private inquiry,” he said.