UK – Yorkshire – Big increase in use of stun gun as more police carry weapons (2011-01-24)

Published on January 24 2011 by admin

[[SUMMARY / COMMENTS: Used 23 times in South Yorkshire in 2010, this represents a significant increase on previous years, with the stun guns only used on 13 occasions between 2004 and 2009. During that five-year period there were just 24 occasions where the weapon was aimed at potential targets… Initially the weapon was only available to trained firearms officers, but since late 2009 the force said it had been extending its training to other front line staff, with around 230 police now able to use them.” ]]

BBC, By Martin Slack
CONTROVERSIAL weapons which allow police officers to disable potential offenders with a bolt of high-voltage electricity were deployed 23 times across South Yorkshire last year, new figures reveal.

The Taser, which was first introduced by South Yorkshire Police in 2004, delivers a shock of 50,000 volts through a so-called “barb” which stuns the target, allowing officers to overpower them.

The figures are a significant increase on previous years, with the stun guns only used on 13 occasions between 2004 and 2009. During that five-year period there were just 24 occasions where the weapon was aimed at potential targets.

Initially the weapon was only available to trained firearms officers, but since late 2009 the force said it had been extending its training to other front line staff, with around 230 police now able to use them.

Home Office guidance issued in 2009 suggested to chief constables that the Taser should be more widely used, and many regular officers in England now carry the weapon as part of their “protective equipment”.

Senior officers said yesterday that as well as the 23 “discharges”, there had been 76 incidents in 2010 where a person had been “red dotted”, the warning stage prior to the Taser actually being fired.

Police who are threatening to use the weapon on a suspect point a red laser dot at their target and warn them that if they do not comply with officers’ wishes they will receive the shock.

Supt Liz Watson, who oversees the use of the Taser and training for the South Yorkshire force said the technology had helped in a number of difficult situations across the county.

“Extending the number of officers carrying Taser has been successful and is helping to keep South Yorkshire residents safe,” Supt Watson said yesterday.

“In most cases aiming the red dot from the Taser at a person is enough to stop their dangerous intentions and to allow officers to gain control and make the situation safe for everyone present.”

Police said that examples of situations in which the threat of a shock or an actual discharge had been used included preventing attempted suicides, stopping assaults on emergency services staff and calming domestic abuse situations.

In one case highlighted by police, a grieving mother from the Low Edges area of Sheffield was saved last summer, after she said she was going to cut herself with a knife.

Officers arrived at an address to find the woman holding a large kitchen knife to her throat. A Taser was discharged and the woman was safely detained and taken to hospital to be treated.

Another case involved Yorkshire Ambulance Service, which requested police attendance at an address in the Arbourthorne area of Sheffield, after a man had taken an overdose, threatened the crew with a knife and assaulted a paramedic.

Officers attempted to persuade the man to drop an eight-inch knife but he refused, then threatened officers and said he would hurt himself.

The man refused to cooperate with police, a Taser was discharged, and he was safely detained and taken to the Northern General Hospital.

Tasers have proved unpopular with some civil liberties campaign groups including Amnesty International, but the Home Office and police forces insist that all officers are highly trained and only use the stun as a last resort.

Officers have to complete a three-day training programme before being authorised to use Tasers and are then given a permit, which can be withdrawn at any time. They must also undergo refresher courses every 12 months.

Authorisation to use a Taser is normally given by a senior officer, but users can take the decision themselves in circumstances where there is no opportunity to seek permission.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-12270019

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