NSW Police are refusing to release body camera footage of the moment an officer tasered a 95-year-old aged care resident living with dementia to political parties or the public as community outrage about the incident brews.
More information has come out about the resident, Clare Nowland, who is currently receiving end-of-life care at the Cooma Base Hospital after being tasered and falling to the floor on Wednesday morning.
The Greens political party, Ms Nowland’s family and fellow community members want to see the footage made public to ensure a transparent inquiry into the event is upheld.
The incident at the Yallambee Lodge in Cooma has prompted a federal investigation and saw the offending senior officer taken off duty. Police Minister, Yasmin Catley, has also confirmed the investigation will involve the homicide squad and has since been elevated to “level one” as Ms Nowland suffered an injury that could lead to her death.
Accusations of excessive force have been hurled at police. NSW Police Assistant Commissioner, Peter Cotter, spoke to reporters on Friday and said he had seen the footage and agreed that it was “confronting”.
“She had a walking frame but she had a knife… No officer, not one of us, is above the law and all our actions will be scrutinised robustly, from a criminal perspective as well as a departmental perspective.”
Both Mr Cotter and NSW Police Commissioner, Karen Webb, said they would not release the footage of the incident unless the investigation requires it.
But Greens Senator, David Shoebridge, raised concerns about police investigating a matter involving their own members.
“Nobody feels like the truth is going to come out because there’s such an inherent conflict of interest.”
Care staff called police and paramedics to the facility where Ms Nowland was found with a steak knife early on Wednesday, May 17. Attending officers and paramedics allegedly attempted to “de-escalate the matter”.
Ms Nowland moved at a slow pace towards the doorway with the knife and her walker where officers were standing and was hit once with a Taser, causing her to fall and hit her head. Medical attention was immediately provided and she was taken to hospital in a critical condition.
According to NSW Police guidelines, an officer can use a stun gun when violent resistance is occurring or is imminent or when an officer is in danger of being overpowered.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Josh Pallas told SBS that police shouldn’t be using Tasers on vulnerable people experiencing dementia or a mental health crisis.
“Surely, there must be more appropriate ways to deal with non-compliant people who are suffering,” he said.
Ms Nowland is believed to stand at about 155cm, weighs 43 kg and recently has been experiencing symptoms of dementia. She is a well-loved member of the Cooma community, famous for skydiving on her 80th birthday.