Tasers, traffic police and a Ferrari

I’ve probably done more radio interviews about Tasers than any other single subject. These stun guns are being used in increasing numbers by the police, yet no one other than Amnesty seems to be regularly raising concerns about their rollout.

Not that Amnesty is completely opposed to Tasers. Oh no. We just want to make sure that these potentially lethal weapons are only used where there’s a real threat of death or serious injury and only by officers trained to the same exacting standards as firearms officers.

When Tasers do make the headlines it’s because there’s been another questionable example of their use; in this case against an 82-year-old man in London. It’s being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission so I didn’t want to answer questions about this particular case when I appeared on LBC at 8.30 this morning but the presenter, Nick Ferrari, was more interested in a wider discussion about the changing nature of policing.

To what extent is the widespread deployment of Tasers changing the principle of policing by compliance? Surely the fact that more and more officers are carrying weapons that inflict excruciating pain at the touch of a button is knocking holes out of the notion of an unarmed police force?

The media will continue reporting on the more sensational examples of Taser use and we at Amnesty will continue raising our concerns, but I can’t help thinking the wider debate, of the sort we touched on this morning, also needs to take place.

Nick Ferrari commented on Kent traffic police officers being dressed all in black and wearing body armour when pulling over motorists. I mentioned that I was speaking to him from Kent. I hadn’t seen police dressed the way he described but I was able to share the fact that traffic police in Kent are apparently authorised to carry Tasers.   

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