THE INDEPENDENT OFFICE FOR POLICE CONDUCT (IOPC) has published a report which flags concerns on police use of Tasers.
Responding to the report, Oliver Feeley-Sprague, Amnesty International UK’s policing expert and a member of the independent advisory group to the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on Tasers, said: “This should be a wake-up call to the police and the Home Office over the use – and misuse – of these potentially lethal weapons
“The police have a disturbing track record of disproportionately using Tasers against Black people and those in mental distress. In some circumstances, Tasers can be effective if used by well-trained officers to prevent loss of life or serious injury – but they’re open to misuse and over-use.
“Tasers are potentially lethal weapons, linked to hundreds of deaths in the USA and a growing number in Britain, and we’ve always said that UK police forces needed to restrict their use to highly-trained specialist officers.
“For years we’ve been calling for a formal review of the official guidance around all aspects of the police’s use of Tasers, and this report needs to form part of wider reforms over Taser use. Tasers should be used only as a last resort when all other de-escalation techniques have failed, but the police are using Tasers more often and in more questionable circumstances. We need concrete steps to eradicate racist police use of Tasers and to prevent their misuse against vulnerable groups such as children or those with mental health issues.
“There needs to be comprehensive and ongoing training, better guidelines over Taser use, and greater transparency and record-keeping over the circumstances in which these powerful weapons are being deployed on our streets.”
Also commenting on the report, Lisa Renee Cole, whose brother Marc Cole died following the use of a Taser, said: “This report has identified key findings relating to the Police misuse of Tasers that led to the deaths of Marc Cole, Adrian McDonald and Darren Cumberbatch. The IOPC have gravely failed our families by not applying these findings to the investigations into our loved ones’ deaths. Our families urge the IOPC to now look at the key finding patterns in all the cases listed in the deaths and injuries section of the report and to urgently review and robustly reinvestigate all these cases.”
Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, a charity which provides expertise to bereaved people and various agencies on state related deaths and their investigation, said: “This review is welcome but the recommendations do not go far enough to create the systemic change needed. Tasers are highly dangerous weapons which have resulted in serious injuries, harm, and deaths. They are increasingly used as a first not last resort.
“The disproportionate and inappropriate use of Taser against Black people, people with mental ill health, learning disabilities and autism, and children underscores longstanding concerns about racism and discrimination in policing.
“We don’t just need more scrutiny, community oversight, or training or guidance. We need the IOPC, police chiefs and oversight bodies to hold police officers to account when they abuse their powers and to confront the reality presented by this evidence. We need strong action: stop the further rollout of Tasers to more officers now. Ultimately to prevent further deaths and harm, we must look beyond policing and redirect resources into community, health, welfare and specialist services.”
*Read Review of IOPC cases involving the use of Taser 2015-2020 here.