Dear David Howarth (Cambridge MP),
I am writing to you following the arming of non-firearms police with TASER electroshock weapons in the UK as part of a year long trial which started on 1st September 2007. (1)
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. 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 agree with Amnesty International’s Arms Programme Director, Oliver Sprague who has said:
“We’re worried that this could be the start of a slippery slope – towards further arming of the police, or towards a situation like that in the US where Tasers have been widely misused and people have died. ” (2)
I believe the more TASER weapons there are held by the police the more likely it is that they will be misused by the police or would get into criminal hands. I feel that many examples of TASER use by police in the USA have been inappropriate and unnecessary. (3)
I do not believe that TASERs are safe, I personally don’t like the idea of them and would not want to be TASERed. I am aware that animal testing, computer simulations, and tests on healthy volunteers have shown TASERs to be safe, however I question the emphasis put on such data by those such as the UK Government’s advisory committee (4)when we have statistics from countries where TASERs have been used in law enforcement, where in “real life” situations, particularly where subjects have been under the influence of drugs or under extreme stress TASERs have been implicated in deaths, the fact that such people may be at increased risk is mentioned in the advisory committee’s report.
In 2004 an Association of Chief Police Officers commissioned survey found that:
“Awareness of Taser is generally quite low: Only 36% thought they knew what a Taser was”. (5)
I would like to suggest that any decision to deploy TASERs more widely should be taken only with the educated consent of the British people, I would support promotion of debate on TASER use and would like to see another public opinion survey conducted at the end of the current trial period.
I would also like to see Police Forensic Medical Examiners compelled to type their reports on individuals who have been TASERED so that no more are not available for review by the Government’s advisory committee due to illegibility. The committee stated it based its UK TASER injury statistics on :”The review of the … available (legible) FME reports” (4)
I have watched the Chief Constable of North Wales Police’s YouTube video on which he gets TASERed (for 1.5 seconds, when the default is 5 seconds) and was appalled by his attitude when he said:
“I very strongly advise you, if faced by an officer and a Taser, that you follow the instructions of the nice police officer, because you will not enjoy the consequences of disobedience.”
“We have therefore just issued Tasers to a substantial number of officers based in the more rural parts of the force and will be measuring the effects over the next year or so” (6)
I do not believe a “Substantial Number” of North Wales Police Officers in rural areas need TASERs.
Please do not feel obliged to spend time and money replying to me, I am happy to have simply had the opportunity to make my opinion known to you.
3.a.http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=AyvrqcxNIFs (A Student is TASERed in a University Library)
b. http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=5zQ0_d-BFM4 (A driver is repeatedly TASERed)
c. http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=KWaCD6jIH5Q (Police TASER a drunk)
4. DSAC Sub-committee on the Medical Implications of Less-lethal Weapons
a. First DOMILL statement on the medical implications of the use of the M26 Advanced Taser (December 2002)
b. Dstl/BSC/BTP/DOC/803 dated 7 Mar 05
c. DSTL/BSC/27/01/07 dated 30 May 2007
All present as Annexes within: http://www.westmercia.police.uk/images/TaserPolicy.pdf
5. Evaluation of Taser – Digest of Public Opinion Survey- West Mercia Constabulary http://www.westmercia.police.uk/images/mog/taser.pdf