TASERs for Non-Firearms Police

UK Police shock a man in Nottingham with a TASER while he is lying on the ground surrounded by four officers.

UK Police shock a man in Nottingham with a TASER while he is lying on the ground surrounded by four officers. I believe scenes like this will become more common as more UK police are armed with TASER.

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.

I observed and reported on a Cambridgeshire Police Authority committee meeting held in May 2009 at which the expanded deployment of TASER was discussed.

Police Force New Tasers for Non-Firearms Officers Issued

West Midlands Police 600
Greater Manchester Police 550
British Transport Police 400
Merseyside Police 365
Lincolnshire Police 364
West Yorkshire Police 327
Devon and Cornwall Constabulary 325
Derbyshire Constabulary 250
Surrey Police 250
Lancashire Constabulary 200
Nottinghamshire Constabulary 200
Cambridgeshire Constabulary 150
Metropolitan Police 150
Cleveland Constabulary 140
Avon and Somerset Constabulary 130
North Wales Police 130
Durham Constabulary 120
South Wales Constabulary 120
Kent Constabulary 112
Hertfordshire Constabulary 110
Leicestershire Constabulary 110
Dorset Constabulary 100
Gwent Constabulary 100
Hampshire Constabulary 100
Humberside Police 100
Norfolk Constabulary 100
North Yorkshire Police 100
Suffolk Constabulary 100
Thames Valley Police 100
Staffordshire Police 98
Wiltshire Constabulary 95
Bedfordshire Constabulary 90
Northumbria Police 88
Cheshire Constabulary 82
Dyfed Powys Police 80
Warwickshire Constabulary 78
South Yorkshire Police 70
West Mercia Constabulary 70
Essex Police 60
Cumbria Constabulary 50
Gloucestershire Constabulary 50
Sussex Police 50
Northamptonshire Police 36
City of London Police 30
TOTAL 7000

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
Surrey Police 100 250 150
Cleveland Constabulary 70 140 70
SOCA 0 70 70
Lincolnshire Police 300 364 64
Dorset Constabulary 50 100 50
Hampshire Constabulary 50 100 50
Lancashire Constabulary 150 200 50
Kent Constabulary 66 112 46
Norfolk Constabulary 75 100 25
Essex Police 50 60 10
Wiltshire Constabulary 85 95 10

March 2009 figures

2 responses to “TASERs for Non-Firearms Police”

  1. I have written to the Independent Police Complaint’s Commission to say:

    As far as I can tell there is no current mention on the IPCC website of the man TASERed in Nottingham in the early hours of Monday the 15th of June 2009.

    As this is a major national news story, and the incident has been referred to the IPCC, I expected you to have some information relating to it on your website.

    I would like to suggest a news item or press release be posted. Perhaps this could include confirmation that, as has been reported, the IPCC is intending to run a fully independent investigation into the incident. Such an article could also note if the incident, which has only been referred voluntarily, will prompt a review of the IPCC’s arrangements for ensuring TASER discharges are referred to them for review when appropriate. I note that if there had been no video, and no complaint, the IPCC would not be aware.

  2. The IPCC responded to say:

    We apologise that the latest press release regarding the incident in Nottingham has not been put on the website as yet. Due to staffing issues there is currently a slight delay from when the statement is released to when it is put on the website. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused you. I have attached a copy of this release for your perusal.

    Their press release is now online, cheekily they have backdated it to the 16th; presumably this is when it was sent to news organisations. In my view it is poor that they didn’t post it online for everyone else at the same time.

    The IPCC’s reply also stated:

    You will also find attached a press release relating to the use of Tasers, this states that all incidents involving the discharge of a taser must be referred to the IPCC which is the action carried out in the case by Nottinghamshire Professional Standards Department.

    I believe this was an error, as the enclosed release referred to the decision that all complaints about TASER use were to be referred, not all discharges. In the past all discharges had been referred.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.