Tasers will escalate violence against police. Body cams may mitigate the harm
by Gun Control Network on 02-10-2019
If the Government wants to reduce violence against police officers and calm potential confrontations, the way to do that is certainly not by weaponising the police.
Tasers can be lethal – and often are (see below note to editors). They are also intimidating, and wider deployment will further erode the trust between police and the communities they serve. Being around armed police generally makes people feel uneasy and unsafe.
Chief police officers mostly reject the idea of routine arming, but the rank and file have long been campaigning to be allowed to carry guns. Carrying Tasers is halfway there but it’s wrong to suggest that the police will be safer if they carry guns or stun guns. The evidence does not support that. A recent study in 2016/17 by the University of Cambridge found that City of London officers carrying Tasers faced twice as many assaults as unarmed colleagues and were almost 50% more likely to use force in the line of duty. The researchers concluded that “the very presence of Tasers appears to provoke a pattern where suspects become more aggressive towards officers, who in turn respond more forcefully.”
We have a choice. Either we go down the American road where police are heavily weaponised and gun violence is rife, or we stay on the intelligence/consent path. No-one suggests that’s easy. Our largely unarmed police need our support and require the highest-quality training. They also need body cameras – for their own protection and in order to de-escalate potentially violent confrontations.
GCN is urging the deployment of body cams, particularly to every Taser or gun-carrying officer, with strict guidelines to ensure that cameras are switched on in all situations where Tasers are drawn.
What is clear, is that criminals carrying knives now are more likely to carry guns in future if they face armed police. It is also likely that police weapons will be stolen and used against them or in another crime.
Of course, some officers must be armed and there are situations where they will use guns and Tasers, but this must always be a last resort. And it must always be recorded for the protection of both sides in a confrontation.
Gill Marshall-Andrews, Chair of the Gun Control Network says:
Arming the police is a one-way street. It will never be reversed. At present we have a unique relationship with our police in this country and we must value and protect that. Of course, some officers need firearms training and there are situations where they will use guns and Tasers, but this must always be the last resort – and it must always be recorded for the protection of everyone involved.
The Police Federation is not serving their members well by arguing for them all to be armed. They are putting them, and us, in danger.
The UK is a comparatively safe country thanks to an intelligence-led police force and good laws. We know that the more weapons there are in circulation, the more they are misused, and this applies to the police as well as the general public. Any sign of an increase in the police use of weapons is a cause for concern in a democratic society.”
Professor Peter Squires added:
Dr Barak Ariel, from the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, concluding his 2017 study with City of London Police, said:
“We found that officers are more likely to be assaulted when carrying electroshock weaponry and more likely to apply force. The City of London Police rarely discharged Tasers during the study. Yet the very presence of the weapon led to increased hostility between the police and public. The presence of Tasers appears to provoke a pattern where suspects become more aggressive toward officers, who in turn respond more forcefully.”
Note to editors:
Since GCN began collecting data about Taser incidents in 2009, we have recorded 745 serious incidents reported in the media. The following is a selection of recent incidents:
The actions of a police officer who discharged his Taser at a man eight times in 72 seconds, delivering the seventh shock with the Taser pressed against the victim’s body, have been found by a High Court judge to be “unnecessary, unreasonable and inappropriate". Police were alerted after the man was seen covered in blood on a street in Manchester, Greater Manchester in June 2014. After he was found to be “aggressive”, one officer used CS spray and a Taser against him to no effect. A second officer then arrived and discharged his Taser a further eight times. The victim’s family has sued police for battery and negligence, saying that the victim, who has autism and a bipolar disorder, has been left “largely verbally mute”.
Following a complaint, the Independent Office for Police Conduct has opened an investigation into the use of a Taser, a baton and CS spray during the detention of a 17-year-old girl in Newham, East London earlier this month. Anyone who witnessed the incident has been urged to come forward.
Andrew Spiby, a British Transport Police constable, has been handed a sixteen-week suspended sentence after being found guilty of assault. After being sent to deal with a disturbance at the railway station in Derby, Derbyshire in May last year, Spiby Tasered a male suspect, while his colleague used incapacitant spray against him. The man later complained about the level of force used against him and the Crown Prosecution Service authorised charges following an investigation by The Independent Office for Police Conduct. Spiby must also complete 120 hours of unpaid work and pay £500 victim compensation, £775 court costs and a £115 victim surcharge.
An inquest into the death of a man in July 2017, has found that police action, which included restraint, punching and use of a Taser, contributed to his death. Police were called after the man began behaving oddly at a hostel in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Officers found the man waving a metal towel rail, which he had ripped from a wall. One of the officers discharged his Taser twice at the man and hit him once with his baton. A second officer then repeatedly punched him. The man was restrained before being taken to hospital where he was found to be critically ill and blood results showed he was suffering from a drug overdose. The inquest heard that the cocaine the man had taken could have triggered Acute Behavioural Disorder and that restraining or tasering people in this state can prove fatal. In a narrative verdict, the jury said that the man’s behaviour influenced the police’s decision to call for back up, including Taser officers, and that some of the restraint used "may have been excessive and at times probably avoidable".
A police officer was treated in hospital after he was attacked in Bangor, Gwynedd. His Taser, stolen during the incident, has not yet been recovered. Of the five men arrested after the offence, three were later released without charge; a sixth man has since been arrested on suspicion of robbery.
Despite the routine arming of all police officers in the US, 47 were killed by guns in 2018.
Reuters has documented a total of at least 1,081 U.S. deaths following use of police Tasers.
In 2018, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department issued new guidance to police which refers to the use of these weapons as a ‘pain compliance tool’.
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