Aged care worker receives death threat in Taser fallout

Samantha Lock |

The police officer who tasered a 95-year-old great-grandmother in a NSW nursing home has been suspended as it’s revealed a worker from the facility received a death threat.

Fallout from the disturbing incident has focused attention on police training and practices and prompted calls for a parliamentary inquiry.

Clare Nowland was using a walking frame when she was hit with a police Taser at Yallambee Lodge aged care facility in Cooma on Wednesday, after allegedly failing to drop a steak knife.

The dementia patient and mother of eight is now receiving end-of-life care after sustaining critical injuries when she fell after being tasered.

After releasing scant details on the circumstances surrounding the incident, NSW Police issued a statement on Tuesday confirming the senior constable involved had been suspended after being removed from active duty on Friday.. 

“Today a 33-year-old senior constable attached to Monaro Police District was suspended from duty with pay,” the statement said.

Under pressure Police Commissioner Karen Webb said she had not viewed footage of the incident or spoken to the suspended officer.

“I will probably speak to him at some point,” she told Seven’s Sunrise program.

She has ordered a review of police training, particularly focused on how to deal with people with dementia.

“The role of a police officer seems to be growing wider and wider and we are expected to know everything about everything – and we are not experts on everything,” she said.

Police Minister Yasmin Catley evaded answering whether she had viewed the footage during question time in parliament on Tuesday.

She accused the opposition of politicising the matter and said one Cooma aged care facility worker had received a death threat. 

“So let that be on your conscience if you want to keep going down this path,” she said. 

Opposition police spokesman Paul Toole said it was in the public’s interest to view the footage and “not to sit back silently”.  

The NSW Greens and an independent MP are calling on the government to establish a parliamentary inquiry into NSW Police.

Greens MP Sue Higginson has demanded a fully independent investigation and the release of bodycam footage, saying the incident revealed “how desperately we need police reform”.

“People are coming forward with alarming examples of ways the NSW Police have acted out of turn and rarely faced consequences – I fear this is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said. 

“The NSW community has a right to know exactly what happened when Clare Nowland was tasered so we can start to take the steps needed for change.

“We can’t ignore this any longer and we have to accept that the tasering of Clare Nowland wasn’t isolated.”

Kiama MP Gareth Ward also said he would move to establish an inquiry into training for frontline emergency services concerning people with cognitive decline and disabilities.

An investigation is being led by the homicide squad and the Professional Standards Committee of NSW Police, and overseen by the independent Law Enforcement Conduct Commission.