Chief Inspector Neil Sloan of Cambridgeshire Police told a meeting of Cambridge’s Community Safety Partnership held on the 30th of April 2013 that a police announcement of the date from which neighbourhood officers will begin to be routinely armed with TASER weapons was “imminent”.
Chief Inspector Sloan told the partnership that the police would issue a press release naming the date in advance of the use of the weapons by non-firearms officers “going live”. The Chief Inspector noted it was probably not wise of him to have used the phrase “going live” in relation to TASER deployments.
The statement was given in answer to a public question I asked, querying why despite Chief Inspector Sloan telling the partnership in December 2012 neighbourhood officers in Cambridge would begin routinely carrying the weapons from January 2013 this had not actually happened.
Chief Inspector Sloan evaded giving any further update to the partnership, despite them having asked previously about proactive publication of information on the use of TASERs in the city by non-firearms officers. The only thing Inspector Sloan added was a claim that his statements in December were accurate at the time he had made them.
While the meeting was in progress, but well after the public speaking slot had concluded, I received a call from BBC Radio Cambridgeshire inviting me onto their breakfast show at around 7am the following day (Wednesday the 1st of May). They explained they were inviting me on to respond to an expected announcement by Cambridgeshire Police relating to an expanded roll out of TASER.
This led me to wonder if Chief Inspector Sloan was badly prepared for the Community Safety Partnership meeting and unaware of quite how imminent the police announcement would be. Unfortunately once the public speaking slot has passed there are no options for the public to contribute to the meeting so I was unable to provide the partnership, and Chief Inspector Sloan, with an update.
I have asked Cambridgeshire Police to get their announcement online early tomorrow so that those, like me, who wish to comment on it, can do so from an informed position:
.@cambscops Can you get your TASER announcement online early tomorrow. I’d like to respond from informed point of view on BBC Cambs ~7am.
— Richard Taylor (@RTaylorUK) April 30, 2013
At the time of writing, ~16.00 on 30 April, the Cambridgeshire Police News webpage does not list the TASER roll out press release.
On the 28th of April the police officer who speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers on TASER related matters revealed that nationally 10% of officers are now TASER trained:
— Richard Taylor (@RTaylorUK) April 29, 2013
Cambridgeshire Police has around 1,300 police officers; it will be interesting to see what proportion of those the force plans to arm with TASER when it reveals its latest plans.
Cambridgeshire Police have had a number of false starts having announced an intent to roll out TASER before In January 2012 a plan to arm 120 non-firearms officers with TASERs was announced but was not carried out; perhaps as a result of questions from the public, elected representatives, and the police authority.
My Key Points
- I cannot see a clear political mandate for this roll out of TASER to more police officers. In 2008 the then Labour Home Secretary announced she would like to see all front line officers armed with TASER; however this didn’t happen, it was resisted by the public, elected representatives and police authorities.
There has been no clear statement from the current Home Secretary, Theresa May, on her, and her Government’s view on arming more non-firearms officers with TASERs.
Locally our Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright has washed his hands of the issue, declaring it “operational” and refusing to comment on the grounds he does not get involved in operational matters. My view is that the degree to which our front-line police, response officers and neighbourhood officers, are routinely armed with TASER is not an operational matter, but a key strategic one. Strategic questions which directly impact people’s first hand experience of the police don’t come much bigger than this, it’s without question in my view a subject on which the Police and Crime Commissioner should be taking a decision, particularly given the vacuum in terms of national leadership on the issue.
- I’m concerned about the way this change will impact on the relationship between the police and the public in the UK. One of the great things about this country is our routinely unarmed police force, who police by consent, not by force. I don’t want to see a move towards policing by force. I fear that a country policed by force will be harder to police, and we might well require more police in that situation. I think it’s a great thing that we live in a relatively civilised country which can, currently, be policed effectively by a very thin blue line of largely unarmed officers..
The Community Safety Partnership
Cambridge Community Safety Partnership is a group including the City and County Council, the Police and Crime Commissioner, the Police, Probation, NHS bodies, a representative of the voluntary sector, Magistrates, and more. It is responsible for setting, and monitoring progress against the city’s policing and wider “community safety” priorities and spending money, largely provided by the Police and Crime Commissioner provides it with, though Cambridge City Council and other partners also support its work in various ways.
- Opposing More UK Police being Armed with TASERs – Letter to my MP, David Howarth, September 2007.
- All UK Front Line Response Police to Carry TASERs – My article following the November 2008 announcement by the Home Secretary.
- Cambridgeshire Police Authority – December 2008 – First discussion of TASERs by Cambridgeshire Police Authority following the Home Secretary’s Announcement.
- The Role of Police Authorities in Decisions to Extend TASER Deployment
- Encouraging Liberal Democrats to Act Locally on their National TASER Policies – February 2009
- Cambridgeshire Police Authority Dodge my TASER Questions – May 2009
- TASERs for Non-Firearms Police – includes tables showing the number of TASERs for non-firearms officers distributed to forces.
- Cambridgeshire Police Worst In Country for Accidental TASER Discharges
- Non-Firearms Officers Account for a Third of TASER Usage
- Me discussing the TASER rollout to non-firearms officers with James Whale on LBC radio.
- Home Affairs Select Committee Session on TASERs – December 2010.
- Prodding the Home Office to Resume Publishing Statistics on TASER use by the Police January 2011
- Large Rise in UK Police TASER Use – December 2011
- My article reporting Chief Constable Simon Parr to expand the force’s TASER use – December 2011.
- Cambridgeshire Police Propose More TASER Trained Officers – December 2011
- Cambs Chief Constable Would Overrule Police Authority on TASER Deployment – December 2011
- 120 Non-Firearms Officers to be TASER Trained in Cambridgeshire – January 2012
- Cambridge Police Commander Skeels on TASERs and Knives – March 2012
- Responding to Police Federation Calls for All Officers to be TASER Armed – June 2012
- Debating UK Police TASER use on BBC Radio Wales – October 2012
- Cambs Police and Crime Commissioner Bright Dodges TASER Questions – November 2012
- Neighbourhood Police Officers in Cambridge to Routinely Carry TASER from January 2013 – December 2012
- Opposing UK Increasing Police TASER Roll-Out to Non-Firearms Officers – April 2013