Ten stunning facts about Tasers

Public opinion, it would seem, is divided on the Met Police Commissioner’s call to make Tasers more widely available.

The Daily Mail carries a comment by Lindsay Johns who describes how young people from ethnic minorities are more likely to be targeted and therefore Tasered. However initial comments below the Huffington Post’s story suggest that all officers should be armed with this weapon.

Before we go arming (and training??) every police officer with Tasers, perhaps we should take stock and consider a few facts.

  1. The Met Police Commissioner made this call just days after four police officers were  stabbed in north-west London reportedly after they gave chase to a man who ran into a butcher’s shop, picked up a knife and then stabbed the officers. There is no question about it: this is a horrendous and dreadful incident. No police officer should find him or herself in that position.
     
  2. This story has made news headlines because – thankfully – this is a rare incident. It is not a story which we read about every day, or every week.
     
  3. In cases like this, Tasers are most certainly one of the most effective weapons for the police officer to have. Had a highly-trained officer fired a Taser in this instance, he or she could well have disarmed the attacker, subdue and arrest him.  The Taser definitely has a role to play in British policing.
     
  4. Already. at least 2,600 police officers in London are trained to use the Taser.  Tasers are already carried in mobile rapid response teams (the TSG), specifically trained in dealing with violent disorder.
     
  5. Tasers are potentially lethal, described by Taser International themselves as ‘less lethal’ weapons.
     
  6. Until a few years ago, only specialist firearms officers could use them in the UK.
     
  7. In the US, more than 460 people have died after being shocked by a police Taser. In many cases the coroner concluded that the Taser was a contributory factor.
     
  8. In the UK, this August two men died in the space of one week after being shocked by a Taser.  Investigations are on-going so final conclusions have not as yet been made of the reasons for the death, although it is the case that one of the men who died also inflicted knife wounds to himself.
     
  9. Earlier this year, Taser paid out $10 million in a lawsuit brought against them by the family of 16-year old Darryl Turner who died in North Carolina after being shocked by a Taser. The jury found that Taser International were culpable for failing to inform the police department that firing a Taser close to a person’s heart could actually induce cardiac arrest (or kill them).
     
  10. Taser International also lost an appeal against a $6 million wrongful death verdict in the case of Robert Heston – a man from California who was subjected to 75 seconds of repeated Taser firings.

Clearly even Taser International realises that this isn’t a weapon that can be handed out with little or no training.   No one should be lulled into a false sense of complacency when it comes to Tasers. Just because more officers are being deployed with them in the UK should not translate as “Tasers are alright weapons which won’t do much harm”.

We’ve said it before but yes, I’ll say it again. Tasers should not be handed out to every police officer. They should only be used in the most serious, life-threatening instances and only by the highest trained officers. At the moment Amnesty has real concerns about the level of training given to officers armed with these weapons and would call on the Home Office to regulate more tightly the guidelines for police forces in how to use this weapon.

Decisions taken in the heat of the moment aren’t normally the best ones. Commissioner Bernard Hogan Howe: we would advise you to think again.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
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.
View latest posts
0 comments