Northern Ireland: Amnesty rejects tasers for P.S.N.I as John Reid proposes wider development

Amnesty rejects tasers for P.S.N.I. as John Reid proposes wider deployment

Amnesty International has rejected the proposed deployment of Taser electro-shock weapons to the PSNI, as Home Secretary John Reid announced that more police in Britain are set to get the 50,000-volt devices.

Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Communications Officer, Fionna Smyth, said:

"Tasers are potentially lethal weapons. Amnesty International has studied the use of Tasers in the US and Canada, where more than 220 people have died since 2001 after being ‘Tasered’.

"Amnesty wants assurances from the Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde, and the Northern Ireland Policing Board that they will not introduce these weapons here until comprehensive and independent testing can establish that they are safe. Even then they should only ever be used by trained firearms officers.

"We are concerned that John Reid's announcement may be the start of a slippery slope, towards a situation like that in the US where officers are routinely armed with Tasers and use them in a wide range of situations. This is clearly a frightening prospect.

Background

The Home Secretary proposed today that many more police in Britain will be authorised to carry Taser electro-shock weapons. John Reid told a Police Federation conference he wants non-firearms officers to have the devices. Police will also be able to use them in a wider range of situations

Tasers are powerful electrical weapons used by over 7,000 of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the USA and by police forces across Britain. More than 3,000 of the devices have been distributed to special firearms officers since their introduction in 2003.

Tasers temporarily disable a suspect by delivering a 50,000-volt shock. The electrical pulses from the Taser induce skeletal muscle spasms that immobilise and incapacitate the individual, causing them to fall to the ground. Recent studies have cited the need for more research into potential adverse effects from Taser shocks on people who are agitated or under the influence of drugs, or who are subjected to multiple or prolonged shocks.

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