May 22, 2023

Body cam footage of tasering 95-year-old exists, hidden from public

Clare Nowland
Clare Nowland, who is currently receiving end-of-life care at the Cooma Base Hospital after being tasered and falling to the floor. [Source: ABC News]

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.” 

What happened?

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.

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  1. I cannot understand why police were called in For goodness sake 95yrs and 43kg. It’s 4am. How did she get the knife. This home has a lot to answer for as well as Police. I find this totally unacceptable. My love is with this family.

  2. This occurred in the early hours of the morning. Had I been caring for this lady I would have turned off the lights. She would have become disoriented and the situation may have been diffused with no one being hurt. Care workers need more training to deal with these situations.

  3. Yes, the need to Taser any resident is not warranted. This is extreme use of power by any term. The release of body cam video is “Not Needed” and “Should Not” occur. The video should only seen by the police and the coroner if and when legally required. Release will only distress more people such as the police officer concerned, staff, family and the general public etc. It will be blow-up around the world as the article has been, and it will indicate how bad the Aged Care System is in Australia.
    Why inflict more pain, discomfort and distress on all people: Everyone and those like myself are horrified at what happened and what happens in Aged Care facilities every day.
    I had a family member recently pass away due to total incompetence and direct failure in an Aged Care facility. This included the direct and indirect failure by the Aged Care Regulator who allows this to occur.
    “Please do not push for the release of body cam video.” (I am a retired paramedic who has seen enough distress)

  4. I believe the footage be shown regardless of what the Police have to say. I’m damn sure if it was one of their family they would talk them down in handing over the knife no matter how long it took, I do know a dementia can get angry & can be quite powerful, a dementia person pushing a walker with a knife in her hand walking slowly to what extent did this come to be confronting possible verbal.Tazer NO not necessary. I feel sorry for the family & wish them all the best.

  5. I would also like to hear from the carers at the residential aged care facility as to why they would allow a steak knife to come into the possession of a 95-year old resident with Dementia? Perhaps it is because to get a job as a carer in that industry, you only need a Cert 3 in Aged Care, there is little, if any, ongoing training in how to work with residents with dementia, when upwards of 70-80% of residents have some level of dementia.
    My ex wife has worked in one, I’ve done volunteer work in one and I’ve seen it and heard about it first hand.
    My major concern though, is that Police investigating Police is farcical, especially what appears to be a trigger happy cop! All he had to do was to walk quietly near her, while his mate distracted her and then quietly and gently removed the knife from her grasp.
    With dementia now, according to researchers, being the biggest cause of death to women and the second biggest killer of men, after cardiovascular disease, let’s give Dementia Australia et.al. all the support we can in their education programs.
    I only deliver my 20-minute presentation with 10-minute Q and A, to service organisations like Rotary Clubs and Chambers of Commerce, etc.

  6. Elder abuse is one of the vilest indicators of ageist injustice within our current civilisation.
    When those we trust, commit such a hideous, heinous crime, it requires punishment that befits a criminal act of such magnitude. This is beyond unforgivable. This is a horrid savage atrocity akin to torture.
    It seems humanity tends to prefer perpetuating ‘labels & prejudicial bias against those that are vulnerable, continuing to marginalise & discriminate, forcing them to agonize through exploitation at its worst & most cowardly. When mistreating people for ‘being different’, becomes unquestioned & tolerable, then we must look inside ourselves & challenge this process for the disrespectful, degrading, inhumane process that it has become.
    This level of cruelty is unacceptable, & such malice towards another can only be parallel to a distorted corrupted intellect.
    How dare we force this indignity on another because of our own inadequacies & limitations!!!
    Recognising & acknowledging this contempt and vile abuse towards PLD continues to occur, is the first step in uniting & fighting against this foul attitude. It is our responsibility to demonstrate how essentially abominable this callous disregard for the human rights of PLD is.
    The task of caring for those who are defenceless is a responsibility humanity must advocate for, delivering a loud & courageous voice, showing strength in the face of the brutality thrust upon those who cannot fight back.
    Full accountability is required at this point. It is not acceptable to listen to endless justifications that suggest a person has not been well informed/lacks insight into understanding PLD. There are NO excuses that suffice when it comes to the initiation of torture towards an old frail defenceless woman. It is sickening. We cannot condone abuse through the lens of ignorance.
    WE ALL KNOW RIGHT FROM WRONG!!!!!
    If you treat people with respect and dignity “de-escalation” is not an issue that needs addressing – perhaps the abusers need to look at de-escalating their own behaviour & pick on someone their own size.
    Zero tolerance. 
    Shame on us!!!
    Leah Bisiani – RN1/MHlthSc/DipBus/Dementia and Aged Care Consultant

  7. Absolutely disgusting behaviour on the police officer. He needs to be charged. I work with dementia patients and they could have removed the knife from her she was probably frightened. I hope this gets investigated in a fair and open manner. My thoughts are with her family and the residents/staff in the care home.

  8. I am 98 years old in a retirement village.
    I am absolutely appalled by this report.
    I never thought that a policeman who should be helping me in such a situation would be likely to use a Taser on me!

  9. I feel for her and the family.
    My question is , what about the staff? How did they ‘attempt’ to de escalate the situation.
    What bought her to this situation?
    What kind of staff were on the floor that shift? Skilled?

    How did she get into a kitchen area, that should be locked in a dementia unit.

    Surely a staff memeber could have taken it off her from behind.it was only a steak knife.

    I have worked in high care dementia/pysch geriatrics for 15yrs now, we get extreme behaviours at times and are able to de esculate if that resident is of harm to self or others.

    The picture I get from the reports appear to be a low grade situation that care staff should be able to handle.

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