Tasers: regulate not roll out
It’s all gone a bit hectic today. And it’s all about Tasers.
In case you haven’t heard new figures are out revealing Taser usage in each police force, which is why Kate Allen was on Sunrise on Sky News and I have been chatting on 23 different local radio stations.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that a Taser is not a modern-day truncheon. It doesn’t give a little tingle. It’s a potentially lethal 50,000-volt weapon and should not be spoken of as some sort of ‘natural progression’ of the standard policing kit.
Today’s figures reveal a massive leap in usage and also a huge variation between forces. And that all hints at a wider problem.
Tasers are not being used in a consistent manner across forces. Until they are what faith can the public have in their use?
The problem lies with who sets the guidelines and training programmes, and how Taser usage is recorded. At the moment it is up to each individual force.
If the guidelines were clear and they all had the same standard of training, then we would not see such a wide disparity in Taser usage between police forces.
But even comparing figures has its own limitations. There is no standard form on recording Taser usage. So some forces have gone into detail on why a Taser was used, against whom and when, while others go no further than recording the fact that a Taser was used.
It is like comparing chalk with cheese. The data must allow you to see whether a Taser is being used in the right way. Without that it is impossible to make proper analyses between forces and give the British public confidence that Tasers are being used appropriately and only in response to the most serious incidents.
Remember, Tasers are potentially lethal and they should be considered in the same breath as a firearm. And that is another problem.
Firearms officers get months and months of training, which is constantly re-assessed and refreshed. Taser-trained officers get just three days of training in how to use the weapon with a single day annual refresher. It is an anomaly that needs to be rectified.
Our police officers have a difficult job to do protecting the public and themselves. Amnesty do not want to see them go on the streets holding a potentially lethal weapon without adequate training in how and when to use it.
Tasers should only be kept in the hands of a small number of specially-trained officers and used only in a very limited set of circumstances.
And these figures suggest that the trend seems to be heading in the wrong direction.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.