December 11 2013 Latest news:
Peter Walsh, Crime correspondent
Friday, September 13, 2013
Police said the use of Taser in both Norfolk and Suffolk counties remains “low” after government statistics revealed the use of the weapon had more than doubled over a two year period.
Figures released by the Home Office showed that police use of Tasers in England and Wales went up from 3,328 in 2009 to 7,877 in 2011 prompting human rights group Amnesty International state it was “concerned” about the statistics and call for only a small amount of officers to be able to use them.
Tasers were first trialled in 2004 and their use has since been rolled out to all forces in England and Wales. Officers are required to take a training course before being allowed to use a Taser and they are told only to deploy them when threatened with violence.
A Freedom of Information (FoI) request made to Norfolk Constabulary revealed that between January 1 2010 and October 24 2012 records showed that Taser was fired 78 times although it is not clear whether use has increased over that period or not.
A spokesman for Norfolk police said: “The use of Taser in Norfolk/Suffolk remains low. It is an effective tool designed to diffuse high risk situations and for dealing with violent people to secure a safe arrest where necessary.
“There are a number of options available to officers ranging from tactical communications all the way through to firearms. Taser provides officers with a less lethal alternative and in the majority of cases the mere presence of Taser along with the communication skills of officers can be a sufficient deterrent to assailants, ensuring a peaceful resolution of the incident.
“Both Constabularies adhere to strict guidance issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers in relation to their training of staff and policy surrounding the use of Taser and firearms. Taser is only carried by officers who are highly trained and accredited. Before deployment is considered an assessment is made based on the situation and the threat/risk presented.”
Despite figures showing the use of Taser had more than doubled nationally, in only about a quarter (25.7% in 2011) were they actually discharged and in n most situations they were only readied or pointed as a warning.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is probing 12 Taser-related incidents, three involving deaths.
Kate Allen, Amnesty International’s UK director, said: “The increasing rollout of Tasers across the UK is a grave concern. Amnesty International is worried about every bobby on the beat having a Taser on their belt - it’s not a modern truncheon,” said the group’s UK director Kate Allen.
“A Taser doesn’t just give a little tingle - it’s a potentially lethal 50,000-volt weapon and should not be spoken of as some sort of ‘natural progression’ of the standard policing kit.”
Her concerns were echoed by the IPCC, which expressed particular worry about the use of Tasers in direct contact with someone’s body.
IPCC deputy chair Deborah Glass said: “The IPCC recognises that there is public concern over the considerable increase in Taser use, not only in the number of officers using it but also in circumstances where it would not have been used previously - and a rise in complaints that has accompanied that.” But the Association of Chief Police Officers pointed out that the percentage of occasions when the Taser was fired had not increased over the years.
Spokesman Simon Chesterman said he believed this was evidence of the “extensive and consistent training” which police had implemented.