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NSW police face a backlash after a senior constable decided to Taser a 95-year-old woman with dementia who was holding a steak knife at an aged care home in Cooma.

The woman, Clare Nowland, suffered a head injury after falling to the ground and is in a critical condition at Cooma Base Hospital.

Rightful Outrage

The incident, on Wednesday morning, sparked outrage from disability advocates civil liberties groups, concerned Australians, and the woman’s family. All demanded an independent investigation and accountability.

NSW police launched an independent level 1 critical incident investigation, to be reviewed by the homicide squad, the professional standards command and the law enforcement conduct commission.

The senior constable who deployed the Taser, who has 12 years of experience, remains on duty but his status is under review.

NSW Deputy Commissioner Peter Cotter said the officers tried to negotiate with Nowland, who was using a walking frame and approached them at a “slow pace” with the knife. He said the use of the Taser was intended for self-defence and described the body-worn camera footage as “confronting.”

On Wednesday 17th May, police received a call because she “had a knife.” She is now in the Cooma District Hospital in a critical condition. She may die.

nsw police taser dementia patient clare nowland

NSW Police taser dementia patient Clare Nowland.

Peter Cotter, NSW Police Southern Region Assistant Commissioner held a press conference at which he started by talking about the police position, rather than starting with an apology to Clare Nowland and her family. He eventually said, “there are serious concerns about her health.”

Police Deploy Taser Before Brain

Nicole Lee, the president of People with Disability Australia, said the incident was “shocking” and showed a lack of judgement and compassion by the police. She said Nowland needed someone to de-escalate the situation and not Tasers.

Nowland is well known in the local community and celebrated her 80th birthday by skydiving over Canberra.

Police Fumble Through Press Conference

The police response itself is confronting. You may not be able to watch through the whole thing.