Statewatch article: RefNo# 28396
UK: Police Taser extension “at any cost”
Statewatch Supplement; November 2008
With the conclusion of the year long trial of the Taser “stun gun” carried out by ten police forces in the UK, police officers have begun a campaign to equip every officer with the so-called “less-lethal” weapon, (See Statewatch Vol. 17 no 3/4). According to the Sunday Times (14.9.08) the government is likely to acquiesce to their demands “under plans to be announced by ministers later this year”. It is estimated by Police Review magazine that equipping all officers with the 50,000 volt weapon will cost more than £161 million (based on the figure of £940 that the Metropolitan Police Authority paid for each weapon used in London). To put this in context, the magazine calculates that: “The total bill is more than the 2006/7 £158.1 million budget of Humberside Police, for example, and does not include training costs or extras such as Taser cartridges, laptops and barcode scanners, used to download, store and record how the weapon is used.”

At the launch of the police trials in September 2007 Amnesty International (AI) expressed its “grave concern” at the ever-widening deployment of the Taser which was described as a “dangerous weapon” by Labour cabinet minister, Hazel Blears in 2005. AI was worried that any extension would lead to a dropping in standards for police use of the stun gun, a situation similar to that seen in the USA “where Taser’s have been widely misused and people have died”. According to Police Review, “320 people have died in North America after being shot by the Taser.”

Shortly before the close of the UK trials the Canadian parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security published its report on the safety of the Taser, following the harrowing death of Robert Dziekanski who died at Vancouver International Airport several minutes after receiving two electrical shocks from a Taser gun administered by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers. In the report it calls on the RCMP to “implement preventive methods designed to diminish the use of laser guns during police interventions” (p2) and threatened to call for a moratorium on its use if the force does not begin to restrict its use of the weapons by the end of 2008. The Standing Committee’s report followed hard on the heels of a recommendation by Paul Kennedy, head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, who called for Mounties with less than five years experience in the field to be banned from using the Taser.

The weapon manufacturer, the Arizona based Taser International, boasts that more than “12,800 law enforcement law, correctional and military organizations in 44 countries use its devices. Of these agencies, more than 4,500 of them equip all of their patrol officers with Tasers”.

“Study of the Conductive Energy Weapon – Taser: Report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security” Garry Breitkreuz (House of Commons, Canada) June 2008: Police Review 29.8.08, 5.9.08.

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