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Scotland: Amnesty warns that roll-out of tasers would spell disaster for communities

Amnesty International have responded to calls from the Joint Central Committees of the Police Federation to make tasers available to all police officers in the UK. We are already seeing wider deployment of tasers in the UK, with pilots for extended use in England and Wales.

John Watson, Amnesty International’s Scottish Programme Director, commented:

“I’m sure many people will consider the prospect of police officers routinely patrolling our communities with potentially lethal weapons alarming. Amnesty International recognises concerns for the safety of police officers in our communities. The police absolutely have a duty to protect themselves and our communities from violent situations. However, arming more police officers with these dangerous weapons, far from enhancing community safety, could seriously undermine the relationship between police officers and the communities they protect.”

“Such a move would spell disaster for communities in Scotland. The Scottish police forces have always prided themselves on policing by consent, and not by force. Arming more police officers with tasers would move the police further away from this culture, and fundamentally change the nature of policing in this country.”

John Watson also points to international experience of taser misuse, and particularly to recent tragic events in Canada, where a man died after being stunned by police with a taser in Vancouver Airport. Disturbing video footage shows that Mr Dziekanski, who arrived from Poland and spoke no English, was agitated and confused after he became separated from his mother and having spent hours in the airport. The Canadian police are now examining their policies and procedure relating to the use of tasers.

John Watson further commented:

“In Scotland, tasers can only currently be used by specially trained firearms officers, and deployed only as an alternative to a gun, which Amnesty International believes is acceptable. However, we are opposed to any further roll-out of tasers. In light of developments in England and Wales, we would like an assurance from the Scottish Government that they will not consider this simply as an operational matter for the police, and that they will rule out the widespread use of tasers in Scotland.”

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