A police officer in New South Wales, Australia, has been charged with recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault after using a Taser on a great-grandmother with dementia who was holding a steak knife. The incident occurred at an aged-care facility on May 17, and the woman died from a brain bleed a few days later. The officer allegedly said, “No, bugger it,” before firing his weapon. Despite international outrage, the NSW Police Commissioner has refused to view bodycam footage of the incident.
Clare Nowland, a 43kg great-grandmother with dementia, was holding a steak knife and slowly approaching Sen. Const. Kristian White at Yallambee Lodge aged-care facility in NSW on May 17. The 33-year-old officer fired his Taser, hitting Ms Nowland and causing her to fall and hit her head. She was taken to Cooma Hospital with a brain bleed and died on Wednesday night.
Sen. Const. White has been charged with recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault. He is expected to fight the charges. Each of the individual charges carries penalties of several years in jail.
The Female Officer
A female officer who attended the nursing home with Sen. Const. White is understood to have told her colleague: “I can take it (the knife) off her.” However, it will be alleged that Sen. Const. White replied: “No, bugger it.” He then fired his Taser. It is believed the female officer will not face criminal charges but could be disciplined internally.
The Police Commissioner’s Response
Despite international outrage over the incident, NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb has refused to view bodycam footage of Ms Nowland being Tasered. She said she needed to wait until all the evidence had been collated. “It’s important that we follow a process. I will make my determination impartially,” she said. Ms Webb added that the charges against Sen. Const. White could be upgraded.
The incident involving the Taser use on a great-grandmother with dementia has sparked outrage and raised questions about police training and response to vulnerable individuals. The charges against the officer and the internal investigation of the female officer involved are ongoing, and the NSW Police Commissioner has promised to make a determination impartially. However, the incident highlights the need for better training and protocols for police officers when dealing with vulnerable individuals, particularly those with dementia or other cognitive impairments.