A POLICEMAN claims he tasered a driver because he feared he would be run over by his Jeep’s “monster” wheels as the man “displayed an overt non-compliance” with directions.
Senior Constable Grantley Keenan, who has been stood aside from operational duties, is on trial in Perth Magistrates Court charged with two counts of common assault over the incident in Fremantle in March 2017.
James Bartlett was on his way to dinner with his wife and a friend when they were directed to a car park during a random breath test and had a yellow sticker defect notice put on his car for oversized wheels, a cracked windscreen and a light bar installed on the vehicle’s roof.
Keenan said he walked over to the vehicle because he wanted to check what a junior officer was writing on the notice then decided to “have words” with Mr Bartlett, who had said “you’re so f***ing poor, you couldn’t afford my vehicle” to his colleague.
Keenan said he just wanted to make some comments and “see him on his way”.
“It was a disorderly conduct issue,” the policeman said.
He claimed Mr Bartlett then flashed the light bar twice, causing a painful “temporary flash blindness”, which made him more intent on speaking with the driver, but not angry.
After the probationary constable told Mr Bartlett he could go, he reversed but Keenan told him to stop.
Keenan said he then became concerned for his junior colleague, who was in front of the car as it “rapidly accelerated and stopped just short of him”.
Keenan admitted he didn’t shout out to his colleague to move or asked for the keys, instead opening the driver’s side door and reaching in to remove them, which Mr Bartlett prevented by clamping his hand down.
The officer claims he then feared he would be struck by the big tyres, which protruded from the sides of the Jeep, if it moved.
“I was in a pretty precarious situation … I would have been dragged under it,” Keenan said.
The officer claimed Mr Bartlett reached over to manipulate the gearstick but admitted he already had his taser drawn at that stage.
Keenan said he repeatedly warned the driver he was about to be tasered and told him to let go before pulling the trigger.
He said he decided against using a baton because he was in a confined space or pepper spray as there were others in the vehicle.
WA Police Academy trainer Christopher Markham told the court Keenan could have considered “empty hand tactics” such as striking Mr Bartlett’s arm, but it was up to the officer to choose the appropriate tactical option in each circumstance.
Senior Constable Andrew Evans said the trouble started when Mr Bartlett flashed the “very bright” LED light bar “as a signal of defiance”.
The Corruption and Crime Commission last year formed an opinion of serious misconduct, saying Keenan’s actions were unlawful, unreasonable and oppressive.