The Taser now forms an almost standard part of equipment for firearms officers in UK Police forces/service.
The Taser is a CEW or Conducted Electrical Weapon, which fires two dart like electrodes into the target whilst remaining connected to the main unit by conductors. The operator holds the main unit. The Taser delivers an electric current, which causes “neuro muscular incapacitation” that means the body looses voluntary control of its muscles.
When a person is struck by a Taser, they experience stimulation of both their sensory nerves and motor nerves, which results in strong involuntary muscle contractions. The Taser does not rely on pain, except when used in a “drive-stun” mode. This makes them more preferable to some law-enforcement units over non-Taser stun guns.
Tasers were introduced as non-lethal weapons for use by police on potentially dangerous or aggressive individuals who pose a threat to the police officers or members of the public. Previously, such individuals may have been engaged with weapons and, potentially, been shot, with the resulting baying of the non-informed and inexperienced masses.
Indeed, in 2009 the Police Executive Research Forum conducted a study, which showed that injuries to officers had dropped by 76% when the Taser was used. Allegedly, police surveys show that the Taser has saved 75,000 lives. However, they do generate controversy on the occasions when they have been implicated in serious injury or death to the individual on whom the Taser has been used.
Tasers are increasingly being relied upon by British police, who apparently now fire up to five a day. Figures published last year showed the number of confrontations involving Tasers more than doubled between 2009 and 2011, from 3,500 to 7,250.
There has been a huge investment in the weapons in the decade since they were introduced, and police chiefs estimate they are now fired as often as 1,800 times a year.
There are 14,700 officers trained to use Tasers. But Police Federation chairman Steve White last week repeated calls for every frontline officer to be issued with the weapon. Many police chiefs argue that the weapons offer a less lethal alternative to live ammunition and can help resolve some of the most challenging stand-offs.
The current threat levels from terrorism have again highlighted the need for police officers to be able to effectively protect themselves and the community they serve, both effectively and in a non-lethal method.
However, Christopher Salmon, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys has said, “Routine arming with Tasers would be a mistake and counter to the traditions of British policing.” Now, whilst Mr. Salmon has served Queen and Country as an Officer in The Rifles, to the best of my knowledge he has never donned the police uniform and engaged with matters public on the streets.
Therefore, his opinion holds very little water, as he has never done the job on which he is commenting and his role, like those of the other Police and Crime Commissioners is pointless, a waste of time and money and has no place in the traditions of British policing, to which he alludes.
Furthermore, the traditions of British policing sailed west a long time ago, so I would suggest the necessary action to protect police officers in a method that is still one large step away from the routine arming of every police officer, should be taken sooner later than later.
Commander Neil Basu of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) who is the policing lead for Tasers, said he would support a conditional roll out of Tasers. Mr Basu said: “Whilst I would support an extended roll out, this must be informed by appropriate assessments of existing threat and risk, the high standards of training must not be diluted and they should only be carried by those who volunteer to do so.”
This is an interesting point, as it would appear that Mr. Basu is looking for volunteers to carry Tasers and at some point use them. This comes at a time when there is great concern within the police Firearms Units, who feel they are expected to undertake what, is at times, a role with a lethal force imperative only to be treated worse than those against whom they must engage.
So, this point in the history of British policing is being watched with interest. Logic would suggest that officers should be trained on the use of the Taser and issued with it. This should not be an either or situation. The police need to make the decision to do it or not. If it keeps police officers and members of the public alive and safe, then lets get the Tasers issued.