Scotland: International speaker event on tasers

What: An international speaker seminar on tasers

Where: Room Q103, Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

When: Tuesday 26 September, 1.00pm

Speakers:

  • Dalia Hashad, USA Program Director of Amnesty International (Washington DC)
  • Neil Corney, Omega Research Foundation (Manchester)
  • Rosemary Burnett, Scotland Programme Director, Amnesty International (Edinburgh)

Recent reports from Amnesty International have revealed more than 150 deaths since 2001 related to tasers in the USA and yet all of Scotland’s firearms officers now either carry 50,000 volt electro-shock tasers or there are plans to introduce them.

Today (26 Sept) the USA Program Director of Amnesty International addressed the Scottish Parliament on the documented cases of police abuse of the use of tasers in the USA. Amnesty has studied Taser use in the USA, where the devices are widely used. The organisation found:

  • There have been more than 150 deaths following the use of Tasers in the US / Canada, since 2001, 75 of them in 2005.
  • No comprehensive, independent studies have been conducted to date.
  • Recent studies have highlighted concerns and need for further study.
  • These safety concerns are borne out by actual death cases.
  • Most US police departments continue to deploy tasers at a level well below lethal force.
  • Most people who have died in custody after taser use have not been a serious threat.
  • Many people, including Children's rights and the elderly, have been tasered in circumstances Amnesty International considers an excessive use of force, sometimes amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Amnesty International’s Programme Director, Scotland, Rosemary Burnett said:

"Our research in the USA shows that Tasers can kill. We hope that Amnesty’s experience and research in America will help inform the debate in Scotland.

"Tasers should only be used, as at present, by trained firearms officers. But there have been requests for all police officers in Scotland to be issued with Tasers, a proposal we find alarming. There should be no consideration of such a move without a full, public enquiry into the safety of Tasers and their potential impact on Scotland’s policing."

“Amnesty International would welcome research into finding less-lethal alternatives to firearms – but before such weapons are deployed at large in Britain they must be fully tested.”

Patrick Harvie MSP, Green Party Justice Spokesperson said:

“In the light of the rather alarming increase in the number of deaths in custody in other countries, we have to question the notion that Tasers are non-lethal weapons. There is evidence that those with heart problems can be killed by a shock of this magnitude.”

Amnesty representatives were also joined by Neil Corney from the Omega Research Foundation who have conducted extensive research into electro-shock weapons and have informed Amnesty’s policy on tasers.

Abuse

Tasers are widely used in the USA as a standard policing tool rather than as an alternative to using firearms. Amnesty International has documented the use of Tasers against unruly schoolChildren's rights, pregnant Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights (one of whom lost her baby afterwards) a 71-year old half-blind woman and startlingly, a 9-year-old girl who was already handcuffed.

Amnesty International understands that these devices will only be used by firearms officers. The organisation is also calling for a full, independent, public inquiry into the safety and rules for use of Tasers. Such an inquiry should be carried out by acknowledged medical, scientific, legal and law enforcement experts who are independent of commercial and political interests in promoting such equipment.

Background

Tasers are powerful electrical weapons used by over 7,000 of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the USA. They are designed to incapacitate by conducting 50,000 volts of electricity into an individual's body. The electrical pulses induce skeletal muscle spasms that immobilise and incapacitate the individual, causing them to fall to the ground.

In Scotland, they have been introduced by Strathclyde, Lothian and Borders, Grampian and Tayside police forces.

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