Top cop blows up at the one question Australia wants answered (2023)

An assistant police commissioner has snapped at reporters for demanding to know whether a senior constable who tasered a 95-year-old woman - leaving her clinging to life - will be charged.

Clare Nowland, who suffers dementia, is 157cm tall (five foot two inches) and weighs just 43 kilograms, was blasted with a Taser by police at the Yallambee Lodge aged care facility near Cooma, in the NSW Snowy Mountains, about 4am on Wednesday.

According to a police account, Mrs Nowland was by herself in a treatment room with a knife at the time, having collected it from the kitchen earlier.Officers claim Mrs Nowland was approaching police 'at a slow pace', with her walking frame, when she was blasted with the Taser by a senior constable with 12 years' experience.

The Taser blast caused her to fall and hit her head.Community advocate Andrew Thaler told Daily Mail Australia on Friday morning that Mrs Nowland was now receiving end-of-life care in hospital.

Her family is gathered around her in the expectation that she does not have long to live, Mr Thaler said.

Assistant Commissioner Peter Cotter stressed the investigation into the incident is being taken very seriously, but declined on multiple occasions to answer questions over whether the senior officer who discharged the Taser would be charged.

'I am not the investigator, I'm not in the position to talk about whether this officer will or will not face criminal charges,' he said.

Towards the end of the press conference, Asst Cmnr Cotter was asked: 'What are the potential charges the officer could face?'

'I'm not going to answer that,' he responded.

Clare Nowland, who has suffered with dementia, was injured during 'an interaction' with officers at Yallambee Lodge near Cooma

Cops were called to the nursing home (pictured) after being told she had a kitchen knife. Ms Nowland was tasered while standing next to her walking frame

Sombre NSW assistant police commissioner Peter Cotter said Mrs Nowland had been wandering around the facility for a couple of hours with the knife

Asst Cmnr Cotter then thanked the journalist for raising the question, but cautioned her against continuing to ask.

'I know where you're going with it, but in absolute fairness to everyone involved here, I'm not going to talk about this specific officer and any criminal charges,' he said.

'Let me just soften that one for you. But, please, don't ask it again. I think I'm clear on it.'

'She had a walking frame. But she had a knife'

The senior police officer gave a public explanation of the incident for the first time, describing how two officers attended the scene after receiving a call about Mrs Nowland wandering about wielding a knife.

Asst Cmnr Cotter said police 'negotiated' with Mrs Nowland, trying to convince her to put down the kitchen implement, which he described as a serrated steak knife.

'She was approaching police but it is fair to say at a slow pace,' he said.

'She had a walking frame. But she had a knife.

'She did have a knife in her hand and it is fair to say she was armed by that knife. The knife in question was a steak knife.

'Negotiations commenced with Clare to essentially drop the knife. For whatever reason, Clare did not do that.'

Asst Cmnr Cotter revealed there was 'confronting' bodycam footage of the incident but insisted that it was 'not in the public interest' to release the video - despite an international uproar over the forcefulness of the police response.

Asst Cmnr Cotter also suggested Mrs Nowland's case was being treated as if she could soon be deceased. He said the highest level incident investigation underway by the NSW Homicide Squad was consistent with a 'potential coronial investigation'.

She had a walking frame. But she had a knife

Assistant Police Commissioner Peter Cotter

Despite the assistant commissioner's assurance that Mrs Nowland's family did not want to speak with the media, Daily Mail Australia understands that they have been instructed not to talk with reporters.

The 12-year veteran police officer who tasered Ms Nowland has been temporarily stood down during the investigation into the incident.

'I cannot say whether or not this officer ... will face criminal charges.' he said.

In the hours following the incident, which involved two police, the NSW Police Force initially only described the Taser shooting as an 'interaction' with officers.

It was unclear why an assistant commissioner, rather than Commissioner Karen Webb, fronted the media.

An independent investigation is now underway into the incident.

What we know about the incident

Mr Thaler earlier said that Mrs Nowland's family had been under the belief that their beloved oldest member could simply have been making toast in one of the kitchens beforehand.

'Her family is just incredulous (at what happened),' he said.

The family believe the facility itself was not properly staffed to care for patients with dementia.

Yallambee Lodge is a 40-bed facility designed for people who can no longer look after themselves in their own homes, according to the council's website.

Mr Thaler believed there may have been just two carers on duty at 4am for 40 patients in five houses and there was 'a lack of training and for some of these workers, English is not their first language, they may have panicked'.

He said funding for dementia care to be set up at Yallambee had not been passed on by the Snowy Monaro Regional Council, but was vitally needed.

Mr Thaler challenged NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb to travel to Cooma and sit down with Ms Nowland's family for the difficult task of watching the police bodycam of the incident.

On Thursday night, Commissioner Webb said in a statement: 'My thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.

'I understand and share the community concerns, and assure you that we are treating this matter with the utmost seriousness.'

Mrs Nowland is a pillar of the local community who worked at the local St Vincent de Paul's outlet and has been described as a 'helper who loves helping people'.

Cops were called to the nursing home early on Wednesday after being told Ms Nowland had a kitchen knife.

Police claim they tried to speak to her, but tasered her as she stood next to her walking frame.

It's believed officers had struggled to disarm her before pulling out their tasers and firing at her back and chest.

She fell over and hit her head and was taken to hospital.

Ms Nowland, who was well known in the local community and is believed to have been at the facility for about five years, collapsed and sustained critical injuries.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties president Josh Pallas said police shouldn't be using Tasers on vulnerable people experiencing dementia or a mental health crisis.

'Surely, there must be more appropriate ways to deal with non-compliant people who are suffering,' he said.

According to NSW Police guidelines, an officer can use a stun gun when violent resistance is occurring or is imminent or when an officer is in danger of being overpowered.

The Snowy Monaro Regional Council, which runs Yallambee Lodge, said staff had followed procedure.

'Council are supporting our staff, residents, and families during this difficult time,' the council said in a statement.

NSW Police have launched a critical incident investigation to examine the responding officers' actions. The investigation will be subject to independent review.

Ms Nowland, who was well known in the local community and is believed to have been at the facility for about five years, collapsed and sustained critical injuries

President of People with Disability Australia Nicole Lee said it was a 'shocking' incident.

'She's either one hell of an agile, fit, fast and intimidating 95-year-old woman, or there's a very poor lack of judgement on those police officers and there really needs to be some accountability on their side of this,' Ms Lee said.

'This woman, an older woman of 95, she needed somebody to de-escalate the situation with her and to talk to her, and to handle her with compassion and time and not tasers.'

Mr Thaler called on Commissioner Webb to personally explain to Ms Nowland's family what happened, and to apologise.

'The country is rightly outraged,' he said.


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