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Stun guns used in Palm Is arrests

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 29 November 2004

Queensland Police Minister Judy Spence has revealed that police used stun guns on three occasions during arrests on Palm Island.

Eighteen people charged with rioting and other offences on Palm Island have been facing court in Townsville today.

The violence erupted on Friday when the post-mortem results of a man who died while in police custody were released.

Some island residents have accused police of using heavy-handed tactics, saying Tactical Response Group officers treated them like "terrorists" by storming homes with semi-automatic weapons.

But Premier Peter Beattie says officers' response to the riot was appropriate.

"You have to remember this is a backdrop of a riot," Mr Beattie said.

"There wasn't a Sunday picnic going on and the police obviously had to take action and inevitably when they do, there is criticism.

"But you can see police made a considered judgement about the use of force."

Ms Spence says police have used Taser guns on three occasions.

The Queensland Police Union says there would be no need for police to use heavy-handed tactics if the ringleaders of the riot turned themselves in.

Acting union president Denis Fitzpatrick agrees with the Premier that the police's response has been reasonable.

"If these offenders seek to hide with the children and hide with the elderly members of this community, rather than front themselves at the police station and surrender themselves into police custody, this is the situation that will front all our members on the island," he said.

The union has called for attempted murder charges to be laid against those accused of being involved in the riot, saying officers had to run for their lives.

Ms Spence says it is up to police to decide what charges are laid and the Government has no influence.

"I talked to the Commissioner as early as this morning about that matter and they are still examining the evidence on each of these individuals," she said.

"That's coming in all the time as more people from Palm Island as well are coming forward with information."

Meanwhile, the union has launched a public appeal for donations to help the officers whose belongings were destroyed or stolen in the riot.

Mr Fitzpatrick says insurance will not cover the losses as "rioting" is not covered.

He says a full inventory of lost valuables has yet to be completed.

"There's two families that have lost, from what we can gather at this point, everything they've ever owned, including motor vehicles," he said.

"Descending down the line, the other police who were present at the time this criminal offence occurred - that's the firebombing of the police complex - a significant amount of personal property, and some that will be very, very hard to recover or re-establish."

Mr Beattie says no officer will be out of pocket.

"We're not going to allow that to happen," he said. "Clearly there needs to be an assessment of insurance.

"There needs to be an examination by the Commissioner of a range of things but the Commissioner's made it clear to the Minister and I that there will be no out-of-pocket loss to the police involved and nor should there be.

"We do support the union's appeal."

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