Strathclyde: Amnesty urges police re-think taser pilot

Amnesty International has today expressed concern that Strathclyde Police Authority is going ahead with its six-month pilot scheme to arm ordinary, non-firearm trained police officers with Taser electro-shock weapons.

The organisation has urged the police authority to reconsider its plans which will tomorrow see the provision of Tasers to 30 police officers who have volunteered to use it and who have been given only three days’ training.

Amnesty International’s Scotland Programme Director John Watson said:

“This is a particularly concerning move on the part of Strathclyde Police. Tasers are potentially lethal weapons which cause excruciating pain. We have always insisted that these weapons are used only in very limited circumstances by police officers who undergo intensive, ongoing and rigorous training.

“Strathclyde also appears to be applying a very arbitrary approach to this rollout. In only giving the Taser to officers who want it, they appear to be handing it out like sweets. That’s exactly the way in which this weapon should not be rolled out. Tasers should only be given to officers who are best-trained and those who really require it to carry out their job.

“We’re urging Strathclyde to reconsider these plans and put a stop to this six-month pilot.”

John Watson added:

“Scotland's police forces have always prided themselves on working with communities and policing by consent.

“We don’t want to see a seismic shift in the culture of policing – and I fear that the wider deployment of Tasers may well be the start of that.”

At a meeting of the Strathclyde Police Authority on Thursday 4 February 2010, plans were outlined to run a pilot scheme to extend the provision of Taser electro-shock weapons to 30 non-firearms officers. The pilot will run for six months in the Stewart Street and Rutherglen & Cambuslang areas of Strathclyde.

According to Chief Supt Bob Hamilton, who will be in charge of the pilot scheme, the police officers taking part in the pilot will be volunteers. (Sunday Herald ‘Argument of the Week’, 10th February 2010). The non-firearms trained police officers, will receive three days training in the use of the weapon as opposed to the intensive training currently undertaken by authorised firearms officers.

To date all Taser deployments in Scotland have been part of an authorised firearms operation. To December 2008 Tasers had been deployed at 53 incidents, during which they were discharged 18 times. Amnesty International is not aware of any incidents in Scotland which could be considered misuse of the weapons.

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