In November 2008 the Home Secretary announced plans to arm all the UK’s response police with TASER weapons. A press release from the Home Office in May 2009 revealed that, to this end, 7,000 new TASERs offered by the Home Office had been taken up by police forces. I made a request for the breakdown of these 7,000 TASERs by police force using the freedom of information website WhatDoTheyKnow.com. The outcome was slightly internally inconsistent on the point of whether the forces had actually taken delivery of, or had just agreed to take the TASERs; the data released is reproduced below. We don’t know how many of these weapons are routinely out on the streets, and how many have been taken to keep the Home Office happy and put in a cupboard. Cambridgeshire Police’s new TASERs are not yet out on the streets as officers have not been trained in their use partly as no funding for training came with the weapons. I believe it is likely, unless there is louder public opposition, that the numbers of TASERs on the UKs streets will slowly rise as these weapons start to be deployed over the coming months.
|Police Force||New Tasers for Non-Firearms Officers Issued|
|West Midlands Police||600|
|Greater Manchester Police||550|
|British Transport Police||400|
|West Yorkshire Police||327|
|Devon and Cornwall Constabulary||325|
|Avon and Somerset Constabulary||130|
|North Wales Police||130|
|South Wales Constabulary||120|
|North Yorkshire Police||100|
|Thames Valley Police||100|
|Dyfed Powys Police||80|
|South Yorkshire Police||70|
|West Mercia Constabulary||70|
|City of London Police||30|
In the early hours of the morning on Monday the 15th of June 2009 a man in Nottingham was TASERed by police while he lay on the floor surrounded by four officers. I am concerned that we will see many more scenes like this as greater numbers of UK police officers are routinely armed with TASER.
I just did an interview on the Richard Bacon show on Radio Five Live; commenting on the above video and arguing against the expanded deployment of TASER to non-firearms officers. Even the retired police firearms officer put up to support the police agreed with me to some extent, he said the police shouldn’t be handing the weapons out too freely.
It is worth noting that without the video, the event would probably not have been referred to the IPCC. Not all TASER discharges are referred to the IPCC anymore (they used to be), only all complaints about TASER usage. Nottinghamshire Police have voluntarily referred this incident to the IPCC; had they not any member of the public would have been free to make the complaint required to prompt its referral. Referral to the IPCC does not necessarily mean they will investigate, particularly as they are overstretched and underfunded according to one of their commissioners.
New TASER Deployments Since March 2009
The below table shows the rate at which new weapons have recently been distributed:
|Police Force||Mar-09||Jul-09||Change March – July 2009|
|Greater Manchester Police||300||550||250|