I have just been on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s breakfast show to respond to a story in the Mirror today headlined Police reveal stun gun blunders in which it has been revealed that Cambridgeshire Police are the worst in the country for accidently discharging their weapons.
I pointed out that these incidents had occurred while the weapons have been restricted to highly trained firearms officers, and said I expected the number of such incidents to increase as they are rolled out to more non-firearms officers. I suggested that one thing this report does is draw attention to the fact that a massive increase in TASER use is imminent and the intention is to arm all response police officers in the country with the weapons.
As the weapons record every discharge electronically I suggested that the reason we know about these accidents was due to officers being required to explain the circumstances surrounding every time they used the weapons. We do not know if these were accidental firings, or simply discharges, or if they occurred during incidents, in training or elsewhere. When asked to comment on the relatively small number of accidents compared to the number of times TASER had been used; I suggested that the accidents rate would not appear so insignificant if you were accidently shot!
Jeremy Sallis asked for my view on the use of TASER against animals; I told him that in Cambridgeshire the police had shot and missed a dog once, and managed to hit another one. The statistics don’t however say anything about what happened next; I don’t know if the TASER helped subdue the dog, or if its use enraged it further. Without that information I couldn’t comment.
When asked if the police ought have the weapons to protect themselves, I pointed out the police have access to backup; what the trials have shown is that we are not seeing these weapons being used typically by lone officers. I pointed to the incident last week in Nottingham where a man on the ground, with officers at each leg and each arm was TASERed while he was lying on the ground. I explained my concerns that an increased use of TASER would inevitably lead to excessive force being used on a greater number of occasions.
I put forward my view that increased numbers of officers carrying and using TASER will create a bigger barrier between the police and public, change the nature of the country and make it harder to police.