Feeds

Tasing of unarmed opposition peaks among firearms cops

Station 'leccy bill to blame?

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

The latest Home Office figures show Taser usage by English and Welsh police firearms teams in non-firearms situations has peaked. However, overall plods' usage is up as the weapons are being more widely issued.

Two categories of coppers carry the stun guns: Authorised firearms officers (AFOs), and specially-trained ordinary police (STUs) taking part in a series of pilot schemes across the nation.

AFOs have had Tasers since 2004, but until last year could only use them in situations where they were also cleared to use lethal weapons. Such "firearms authority" clearance is typically issued where armed opposition is thought likely.

Last year, though, the Home Office decided to try out Tasers for use in less serious situations. British cops are routinely involved in non-firearms dustups which nonetheless involve serious injuries both given and taken. The idea was that use of the flying-cattleprod compliance technique would allow less rough-housing, and everyone in better shape afterwards.

The downside to letting plods zap people who don't have guns or other serious weapons is that they might get too casual about it and wind up gratuitously electrifying anyone who gave them a bit of lip - or even torturing people.

Hence the interest in Taser usage numbers, and possible grounds for worry in the fact that to begin with the AFOs' usage of Tasers in non-firearms situations soared by 77 per cent quarter on quarter. The same group of police, with the same access to Tasers, were using them in less-serious situations much more routinely - though the proportion of actual shockings was down somewhat, with more cases resolved by merely drawing or aiming a Taser - or sometimes by "arcing" it, letting a menacing crackle of juice pass between the contacts.

However the latest quarterly figures show that English and Welsh AFOs in non-firearms situations shocked people on 75 occasions during the quarter ending in May, down from 92 over the previous quarter. "Drive stun" contact zappings - as opposed to proper flying-cattleprod "discharges" - made up 15 and 14 of those figures respectively. AFOs' Tasers left their holsters on 274 occasions this latest quarter, down from 290 last time.

These declining figures might be because the new STU Taser plods are tackling more jobs which would formerly have gone to AFOs, of course, and there isn't really enough information to draw conclusions from yet. It's pretty much impossible to learn much from the STUs' usage figures, as they have been seriously increasing in numbers during the period the numbers were collated.

Overall, though, the AFO figures seem to hint that there is a line beyond which coppers won't use Tasers and that the firearms units may have reached it. Whether that line is in the right place, of course, will no doubt remain a subject for acrimonious debate.

Those wanting to check the numbers before opening fire can find them here (latest), here (2nd quarter) and here (1st quarter). Bear in mind that these figures refer only to forces south of the Scottish border. ®

Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.