When Cambridge’s newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright was asked to comment on Cambridgeshire Police Force’s use of TASER weapons by the Cambridge-News he responded:
Tasers are an operational matter and I cannot interfere in operational matters.
My view is that TASER policies; such as if they ought be routinely carried by front-line officers or not, are matters for the Commissioner. There is a need to consider the impact the deployment of the weapons has on the relationship between the police and the public; that is something society as a whole, through elected representatives including the commissioner, needs to take a view on.
Our newly elected commissioner appears to be shaping up to follow in the footsteps of Cambridgeshire Police Authority which routinely dodged almost all questions from the public claiming they related to “operational matters” even when they clearly related to policy, strategy and oversight. Commissioner Bright appears to have been captured by the Police Authority secretariat and I would not be surprised if it is their officers who mis-advised him to rebuff the questioning from the Cambridge-News.
I would like to see Commissioner Bright reviewing things like the force policies relating to TASER use including the training and selection criteria for officers who are to be armed with the weapons.
Commissioner Bright should also, in my view, ensure he, the public, and the Home Office are regularly provided with information on the force’s use of TASER weapons so that the public debate on the subject can be well informed. Despite prompting from Cambridge’s MP Julian Huppert statistics on TASER use are not being routinely published.
Mr Bright should also be involved in discussions about the pros and cons of new TASER technology, such as TASER Cam, and the TASER-X2 and should be considering if such equipment ought have a role in the policing of Cambridgeshire.
TASER policy has an impact on police finances, and collaboration arrangements with other forces, as if Cambridgeshire’s policy was to be that only firearms officers can use TASER that would require Cambridgeshire to more regularly call on the services of the merged firearms unit, at significant cost, to deal with incidents which, it is known in advance, are unlikely to require conventional firearms.
On the Saturday before the election Mr Bright invited Cambridge residents to the Market Square in the city to have a chat with him. I went down and would certainly have discussed TASER policy with him, however he refused to talk to me.
I think that all firearms officers ought have access to a TASER so that they can use it as a less-lethal alternative to a conventional gun if that’s appropriate.
I do not want to see UK police routinely armed with TASER. I am concerned about the potential for an increase in the number of cases of disproportionate force being used as well as the impact on the relationship between the the police and the public. We have a very thin blue line in this country which only works as we have policing by consent rather than by force and I am concerned that arming our police with TASER could damage that relationship and make the country harder to police.