Huge payout as police suspend Taser use
Will the outgoing Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde leave a multi-million pound, Taser-sized headache behind for his successor and the NI Policing Board?
That could be the prospect facing the new PSNI chief following the settlement of a huge lawsuit in the US taken by the family of a man who died after receiving multiple Taser shocks from the local constabulary in Missouri.
At the time the electro-shock weapons were introduced to Northern Ireland by Orde, I warned that lawsuits from inappropriately shot victims, as well as officers shot in training or in action.
Not only has the city of Moberly agreed to pay out a whopping $2.4 million to the dead man's family, but the local police department has, according to AboutLawsuits.com, "agreed to suspend use of the controversial guns which have been linked to hundreds of deaths by Amnesty International".
It is worth noting that the first person shot with a Taser by the PSNI recently walked free from a courtroom in Northern Ireland with "no stain on his character".
Sadly, the police did not emerge from the incident looking quite so blameless.
Days after the shooting, the PSNI said the Taser stun gun had been used to restrain a man who had locked himself inside a house with his two children, suggesting that the man was a threat to their safety.
This subsequently appeared to be carefully phrased police misinformation, designed to justify the use of the weapon and shield them from the inevitable criticism had they revealed the full facts of the case.
It now emerges that the man was actually woken from his bed by the police in the early hours – he and his children were, not unusually, asleep at home – and when he came to the door he was shot by the Taser unit who had travelled from Belfast for precisely that purpose.
Such careless use of a potentially lethal weapon in the future could mean that it is the future Chief Constable who ends up in the courtroom, not the hapless victim of police electrocution…
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