THE wife of a sufferer from Alzheimer’s disease who was shot by police with a Taser has claimed the incident could have been avoided.
Police were called to the home of 58-year-old Peter Russell to assist with his transfer to hospital because a doctor wanted him sectioned under the Mental Health Act and felt ambulance staff would not be able to cope.
But during a violent struggle the former farm worker, who wanted to stay at home, was stunned several times by the 50,000-volt weapon before his arms and legs were strapped together and he was carted off in a police van.
Police maintain the officers acted correctly and that Mr Russell, who had suddenly become “extremely violent”, was not harmed, although his family say he should have been treated with more dignity and have called for lessons to be learned.
Speaking at their home in Epworth, North Lincolnshire, his wife Diane, 50, said: “Alzheimer’s patients go back to being a baby; would you Taser a baby for being naughty?
“Pete is not a violent man. My argument is why use a Taser on disabled people? If they had given him a sedative like we asked for or let us take him this would never have happened.
“There’s got to be a kinder way of doing this.
“If he was an armed robber or a wife beater I would say go for it. But I’m talking about my husband and this is someone who if he is ploughing a field will stop his tractor to move a nest of mice.”
Mrs Russell said the incident had been traumatising for everyone involved.
“A policewoman came into the kitchen and she cried and said ‘We really didn’t want to do that but we had no option’,” she said.
She added: “In a way I don’t blame the police because they were just taking on a call and didn’t know what to expect.
“But there’s got be a law somewhere that says Tasering is just for criminals.”
Supt Christine Kelk, of Humberside Police, praised the six officers and said they had handled a difficult situation extremely well.
She said: “We were there to help the doctor, to help Peter, and to make sure he got the right kind of medical attention. But somebody had to get him to hospital and because it was not safe for an ambulance crew to do that the police stepped in. That’s what we do – protect the public.
“Would we do the same again? The simple answer is yes. The officers acted totally professionally. The stress of that situation must have been extraordinary and they put Peter’s needs first. They protected him and protected his family and I’m really proud of what they did.”
However, the Alzheimer’s Society said society as a whole needed to improve the way people with dementia are treated.
Manager Sarah Moody said: “This regrettable incident is another demonstration that society is not geared up to deal with dementia.
“We all want to live our lives on our own terms. The process of leaving the independence of your own home and entering hospital is never pleasant, but for people living with dementia who may be confused or disorientated, the experience can be traumatising. It’s important in situations like this to put the person first and take steps to minimise their distress.
“Making our communities better for people with dementia cannot be the job of just one organisation – all of society, including the police, have a role to play. The Alzheimer’s Society is calling on organisations across civil society to join us in pushing for a radical shift in the way society treats people with dementia.’”
Mr Russell, who was diagnosed with the condition three years ago, is still in hospital receiving psychiatric treatment following the incident on March 6. But his wife, who visited him yesterday, said he is recovering well and hopes he will be allowed home soon.
“I just want him home,” she said. “He’s my husband, I love him, and I just want him home.”