All UK Front Line Response Police to Carry TASERs


Monday, November 24th, 2008. 1:45am

don't taser me
Hidden behind today’s big news of a pre-budget report which could determine the future economic prosperity of the country is an announcement from the Home Secretary that all the UK’s 30,000 front-line response officers will soon be carrying TASER weapons. This was reported in an article on the front page of the Sunday Times headlined : Police to get 10,000 Taser guns.

As I have campaigned vociferously against non-firearms police being issued with TASERs I was invited on to Radio Five Live to participate in a debate with Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Öpik and Simon Reed, the vice-chairman of the Police Federation early on Monday morning.

I agreed with Lembit saying I support police firearms units having access to TASER weapons which they can elect to use as an alternative to firearms in circumstances where they would otherwise use firearms. I said I would prefer to be shot with a TASER than with a gun. However I do not want to live in a country where more police officers than necessary are routinely armed with TASERs. I believe any expansion of TASER use would be damaging to the relationship between the public and the police.

I went on to take issue with some of what Simon Reed had said. He had claimed the trials were over. They are not, the metropolitan police trial has not yet run for the full year. While statistics have been released on some trials periods there has not yet been any interpretation of those statistics or collation of public response to the trials. He responded to say that the reports will be published later today. I agree we will have to see what they say, but I am concerned they might be buried by the pre-budget report.

Simon Reed had also claimed that TASERs would only be used in extreme cases, not he said pub brawls. I pointed him to a BBC article with a headline of : “Taser fired as three fight in pub“. This was from North Wales, where the Chief Constable had said that only rural officers would be issued with TASERs, the fight occurred about 4 miles from Wrexham where there is a major police station.

As for the Home Secretary’s announcement, she justified the decision by saying she was providing the police with the tools they had asked for. She appears to have missed the point that her role is not simply to accede to requests from the police but to make a wider judgement based on the views of everyone in the UK on how we want to be policed.

See also my letter to my MP, urging him not to allow non-firearms police to carry TASERs.

I plan to ask my local police in Cambridge if they feel they need TASERs at the North Area Committee on the 11th of December. If they don’t want them and the people of Cambridge don’t want them I don’t see why the Home Secretary should force them on us. It will be an interesting sight to see Cambridge police with their recently reintroduced whistles in their mouths and new bright yellow TASERs on their belts, clearly showing how difficult it is to balance the conflicting current expectations and demands put on the police.

15 comments/updates on “All UK Front Line Response Police to Carry TASERs

  1. Richard Article author

    I wrote to the Daily Politics (BBC One TV Show)

    Could I please urge you not to let the pre-budget statement completely eclipse the announcement from the Home Secretary stating that all the UK’s 30,000 front-line response officers will soon be carrying TASER weapons?

    As for the Home Secretary’s announcement, she justified the decision by saying she was providing the police with the tools they had asked for. She appears to have missed the point that her role is not simply to accede to requests from the police but to make a wider judgement based on the views of everyone in the UK on how we want to be policed. Where were the views of the public taken into account in making this decision?

    I hope Monday’s statement announces a consultation not a fait-accompli.

  2. Richard Article author

    Home Officer Minister Alan Campbell was interviewed on the Today program at about 0730 on the 24th of November 2008. The minister stated:

    It will be specialist officers who will be using them, and individual Chief Constables will monitor how they are actually being used.

    And

    I don’t think we should run away with the idea they are going to be widely available on a kind of neighborhood level. They’re going to be used by specialist officers using very very clear guidelines, and what has been demonstrated in the pilot is just how useful they have been in protecting not just police officers but the public.

    I felt this was very misleading, and the minister repeated the statement that TASERs would continue to be used only by specialist officers. The announcement he was being interviewed in response to was that TASER deployment will be expanded from a small group of “specialist” officers and given to all the UKs thirty thousand response police.

    The minister was asked about deaths following TASER useage which have been reported in the USA, the minister replied that he had did not recognise the figures. This is because UK policy makers appear not to be taking the experience of widespread TASER useage in the USA into account when deciding what to do in the UK.

    The minister was asked if he would be prepared to be TASERed himself, he refused:

    No I don’t. No I don’t. It certainly might be popular with some of my constituents but I’m not going to be volunteering I can assure you.

    Fuller coverage of the interview with the minister is available on the Taser.org.uk website.

  3. Jim Smith

    Good work opposing the tasers – they are not needed and are manifestly dangerous.
    If police can’t handle themselves on the streets at night, they should let other officers who can. That means an end to 5ft tall women officers intervening in pub brawls when it is obvious their physique is not up to it

  4. Richard Article author

    I spoke opposing the expansion of TASER use on the Antonia Brickell drivetime show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire yesterday afternoon. An Assistant Chief Constable from Cambridgeshire Police had recorded a statement for the show, he was unenthusiastic and bland saying that the force would review the statement made by the Home Secretary.

    There were lots and lots of responses, the producer told me the piece gained “one of the best listener responses we’ve had a long time”, so there is a lot of interest in this. Opinions were split. One anonymous individual saying they were a serving police officer called in to say I was “talking out of my elbow”, he said when he patrolled in Peterborough sometimes the nearest armed response was in Cambridge so he felt he should be armed with a TASER. He said: “It’s not nice being surrounded by a load of anti-police thugs”. It sounded to me as if he was making a case for better support and backup in Peterborough rather than a case for all response officers to be armed with TASER. I believe a massive expansion of the use of TASERs will engender “anti-police” feelings in a much broader spectrum of the population than that officer is currently experiencing and his job will become a lot harder.

    A number of contributors said something along the lines of: “if you keep your nose clean you’ve got nothing to worry about”. People who have died or been injured following TASER use have not always done anything wrong. Many are mentally ill, exercising their right to free speech or simply didn’t understand the language in which they were being challenged by the police.

    The presenter appeared to think there was a serious knife crime problem in Cambridge, this does not appear to be backed up by the statistics, or the recent exercise by the police who took metal detectors to pubs and nightclubs in the region and scanned patrons and found no-knives during the many weeks of the project.

  5. Richard Article author

    I have today, following advice from the police officer responding to my information requests above written to the contact address on the ACPO police use of firearms website to make my requests for the ACPO Taser Trial Evaluation Report and current guidance as amended.

  6. Richard Article author

    Sharon Pring, of the ACPO Firearms Secretariat writing in response to another request on Whatdotheyknow.com has stated:

    “The ACPO Evaluation is available via Commander Robert Broadhurst, ACPO Lead Self Defence and Restraint, Metropolitan Police, New Scotland Yard, Broadway, London SW1.”

    I have written to Mr Broadhurst requesting a copy of, or a link to, the document and suggesting it be made available online.

    I noted the report is not on the ACPO website, either at http://www.acpo.police.uk/ or http://www.westmercia.police.uk/publications/acpopoliceuseoffirearms.htm

  7. Richard Article author

    An “Inspector Robert Blackburn” has written to tell me the document I am seeking: “is not being released to the public at this time”. His full email response is below:

    FAO: Richard Taylor

    The ACPO Taser Trial is not being released to the public at this time (I have no indication as to when or if it will).

    The only information relaesed is that published by the Home Office.

    I hope this helps.

    Robert Blackburn
    Inspector – Metropolitan Police
    CO11 Public Order
    New Scotland Yard
    Tel: 020 7230 4203
    Metphone: 64203
    e-mail: [removed]@met.police.uk

    This is a document referred to by the Home Secretary in a statement, and which a press release from the Home Offices states is available online at the ACPO website.

  8. Richard Article author

    After much consideration on what to do next, I decided to send the following request for an internal review to the Metropolitan Police:

    On Monday the 24th of November 2008 a Home Office press release accompanying the announcement to issue all front line response police in the UK with TASER weapons was published. The press release states: “The ACPO trial evaluation report can be found on the ACPO website”. (http://press.homeoffice.gov.uk/press-releases/Funding-for-more-police-tasers)

    The ACPO trial evaluation report is not on the ACPO website.

    In response to my attempts to get the document released I received the below apparent refusal to release the document from Inspector Robert Blackburn of the Metropolitan Police.

    I would like to request an internal review into what I regard as the Metropolitan Police’s decision not to release this document.

    Many thanks,

  9. diana gaubert

    My son was tasered,probably three times, when he was in a diabetic coma. This occured 3 and a half years ago in Leeds. He has had no apology nor explanation. However, we are due to have a Retorative Conference this month where we hopefully will find out more. There is a great emphasis on the risk of death and immediate injury but none on the long lasting effects which believe me are extremely severe. We are not against the appropriate use of tasers but where things go wrong the police should make a full and frank apology which would help enoormously in the rehabilitation of the assalted person. My son was unconcious at the time and unable to respond to verbal commands. I hope you will be able to reply. Regards D Gaubert

  10. Neil Nash

    Hello, I have read just about enough I can read on the matter and I can’t understand the reason why officers should not be “armed” with tasers, I think it’s easy to be an arm chair critic not having to put one self in the shoes of front line officers who have to deal with all sorts of incidents. I recall similar discussions when cs gas was to be introduced. The reason we have such bureaucracy in this country is because of individuals who do not understand or appreciate the role others find themselves, in this case, it being the police. I would suggest for greater understanding they go out with officers on various shifts, perhaps a Friday night and see for themselves what FRONT LINE officers have to do I`m not talking about armed officers they are actually not front line officers they are not first responders!. Furthermore I don’t see anyone asking criminals to play nice and put away their knives, guns and whatever else illegal they have in their possession, but we ask ill equipped front line officers to deal with criminals for us.
    In this day and age where more officers are being assaulted and killed than ever before you would expect them to have real guns but currently are making do with a stick, cs gas which i understand is hardly ever used due to it incapacitating the officers themselves and a pair of hand cuffs. Look I don’t want a highly policed society, but at this moment in time, crime is high no matter what politicians say it’s on the increase, and people especially in London just don’t feel safe. I too believe officers should be given the right tools for the job they do! The lady whose son was tasered in Leeds, what have police said in the meeting? If your son has been tasered 3 times this will show on the equipment used, why they did this I can’t comment, but if there was a genuine mistake then I agree a frank apology should be made. You mention long lasting affects – what are they? has this been diagnosed by doctors as relating to being tasered?

  11. Chris

    I have to agree with “Neil Nash” on this subject.

    At incidents like domestic violence, which by the way is on the increase, things can turn from bad to worse extremely quickly.
    It only takes seconds for someone to grab a knife and threaten or stab somebody and a can of CS spray or a baton would be unsuitable.

    Currently our front line officers have nothing to protect themselves or members of the public from a dangerous person armed with a knife or other weapon.
    The only defence we have is firearms officers who could take up to 20 minutes to arrive in rural areas, and when they do arrive they might use lethal force!
    It’s also been announced that single patrols are going to become the norm, so officers will be on their own with even less back up.

    When CS Gas was first introduced many people were against it, but it’s now become a vital piece of police equipment.

    The taser has already been used over 1,000 times in the UK with no reported injuries or death.

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