Home Office to hand out more Tasers to police
1 in 5 English/Welsh cops to be trained
The Home Office has announced plans to issue Taser electric stunguns much more widely across the police services of England and Wales. Once plans are complete, approximately 20 per cent of officers south of the border will be authorised to carry the weapons.
Home Office Minister Alan Campbell told the BBC this morning that the police did not use Tasers lightly.
"They're used under very strict circumstances and there are very clear guidelines," he said.
"Last year they were only used on 93 occasions out of the more than 600 that they were deployed. We don't expect them to be used as a weapon of choice routinely.
"I am sure one of the intentions is to make sure we don't need to use guns as often."
It appeared that the 93 "uses" referred to by Mr Campbell was the figure for discharges, weapons actually launching barbs to hit and shock an opponent. However, it would be normal (based on previous figures) for this number of discharges to be accompanied by a further fifteen or more "drive stuns", where the Taser is used as a contact zapper. On other occasions, surrender is produced by merely drawing the weapon, illuminating its laser-dot aiming device, or "arcing" - letting a menacing crackle of juice pass between the contacts.
Until 2007, only police firearms officers could use Tasers, and then only in situations where they were also cleared to use lethal force. Such "firearms authority" clearance is normally only given where armed opposition is thought likely.
However, the cops argue that there are also many other situations, not justifying them in using guns, which are nonetheless violent and dangerous - with both police and suspects winding up badly injured as routine. They say that Tasers are actually much more useful in these situations than in gunfights, as it is unfair to expect a cop faced with a firearm-toting enemy to rely on a Taser - which is single-shot only, and has very limited range.
Since last year, both firearms plods and specially-trained trials units in a number of forces have been carrying and using Tasers. The Home Office consider the experiment to have been a success, reducing injuries among both police and suspects, and now intend to purchase another 10,000 weapons and train up to 30,000 officers to use them.
As there are approximately 140,000 police in England and wales, this would equate to around one in five having the option to carry a Taser.
Amnesty International, which has previously called for a moratorium on Taser use, seemed to take a more moderate line this morning. Amnesty spokesman Oliver Sprague told the Beeb:
"Amnesty is not opposed to the use of Tasers but they should be limited."
Nonetheless the organisation thought the expansion of use in Britain was a bad thing. Amnesty is especially concerned that the stun weapons might be used inappropriately on drug addicts or the emotionally disturbed. New York emergency-services cops (think combination SWAT/rescue unit) Tased such a suspect in September, causing him to fall off a building ledge to his death. The case remains under investigation, but the Tasing appears to have violated NYPD guidelines on the weapons' use, and the head of the Emergency Services squad has been replaced.
Famous comedy MP Lembit Opik also voiced his opposition, telling the BBC:
"We're talking about increasing the firepower of the police in a way that I think brutalises the entire service."
Both the Police Federation (rank and file plods) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (management) welcomed the move, however. ®
I thought tasers were a replacement firearm?
Since when have we routinely armed the police?
This is not the sort of country I wish my family to grow up in.
The amount of anti-police comments on here is truly unbelievable.
Our front-line police officers put theirs lives on the line every day. Just last week 4 police officers died on duty.
Our police are one of the very few police services in the world that does not carry firearms, yet you object to a harmless taser weapon.
If you think our police service is bad then you obviously haven't been to many other countries.
The police baton is FAR more damaging and dangerous while being less effective than a taser gun.
I don't think the general public realise what risks police officers have to take and how lucky we all are to have one of the best (if not THE best) police service in the world.
It's not a technical problem...
Nigel>This should guarantee that
No way. For such measures to really work, they must have some consequences other than wagging finger at them and then give them chance to shoot more people (as Ruby Ridge trigger-wanker) - and it's NOT a technical problem. It all boils down to the choice between self-cleansing or "we and they - and my imbecile paramilitary cousin too", courts rarely helping much. In the former case there probably will be some respect.
In the latter case things will not cool down - until some big chap protected from arc would get *really* annoyed, pluck taser from zap-happy guy's hand, stuff it up his arse (on continuous discharge) and write "taser lover" on poor sod's forehead... just to make a point. Because either "an armed society is a polite society" or one day it ends like that, sorry.
AC>maybe if you have a very strong chain/mesh suit with an earthing strap
It's called "chain mail" and also stops knives (and elbows in crowd); if taser isn't grounded, target isn't needed too, just short-circuit electrodes. ;]