Sàmper defends police use of Taser to overpower woman

Home Affairs minister says a physical intervention could have been "much worse" but the Catalan Ombudsman is investigating

The Department of Home Affairs is closing ranks after the Catalan police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, used a taser to overpower a girl in Sabadell. After a video surfaced, the Minister Miquel Sàmper defended the use of the taser gun and said that a physical intervention could have been "much worse" because the person was "very upset". Sàmper believes that two or three Mossos physically overpowering her would have posed "more risks" than using a Taser. In statements collected by the ACN, the Minister of Home Affairs has argued that the use of Taser is a last resort and for few cases, such as this Wednesday at the entrance of a medical center in Sabadell. He added that the Mossos have used this weapon, which they have had at their disposal since the summer of 2018, in 111 performances, including last Wednesday.

Police use Taser against woman outside health centre in Sabadell

Sàmper justified that in "such an important agitation" there was a risk that the woman, "surely with high blood pressure", would suffer a heart attack or lipothymia with physical intervention by the agents. "A moment of great tension was generated, with people waiting to be visited by doctors. The doctors themselves were scared for their integrity and called in the Mossos. This is a very clear episode of a person who has lost control. I don't know the causes, but it was a situation where reduction is very complicated," said the minister. Despite defending the action, Sàmper has admitted that the images are being reviewed, but sources from department have explained that, with the information available so far, no official internal investigation has been opened.

The Minister's position coincides with that of the SABE-Fepol trade union, which has also defended the intervention and regretted "the attempt to criminalise" the Mossos. According to the police union, the camera worn on the chest of the officer who used the Taser recorded the action, as established by protocol. However, the Síndic de Greuges -the Catalan Ombudsman- has opened an investigation in which he has requested information from the Mossos and the co-director of human rights association Irídia, Andrés García Berrio, has argued that the footage shows "indications of disproportionality". "You can see the person on the ground after receiving the first Taser discharge and then the Taser is used two more times, altough there is a clear superiority of agents around them and other less harmful uses of force can be used," he said.

The effect of the discharge

According to García Berrio, "the emotional and psychological effect of the electric shock and the trauma it can generate are not taken into account". That is why he criticised the use of the Taser "when there are other mechanisms such as mediation or the intervention of psychiatric personnel who were there". Irídia's co-director added that there were no weapons and he considered that there was no situation "of real risk to the life or physical integrity of people". "The Taser weapon, which has a harmful impact, is not intended for this type of action," concluded García Berrio, who called for an investigation by the Mossos and the justice system if the woman wanted to do so. She has already been contacted by Irídia and yesterday told Tv3 that she would report the agent who used the taser gun.

The woman, Paula Parra, 26, denied assaulting medical personnel and admitted she had kicked an officer, but stresses this was after he used the taser gun. She also explained that once they had her pinned down on the ground they continued to use the taser gun. According to the Mossos, the girl wanted to enter the health centre, where she had an appointment, with her mother. however, Covid-19 protocol establishes patients must enter the health centre alone. This is when Parra allegedly damaged the facilities and assaulted the workers. The police said the officers tried to immobilise the girl and two of them were slightly injured by the blows they received. The Mossos reported that, after several warnings, they used the Taser. They also arrested the girl for assaulting a police officer and for damaging the health centre.

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