Chairman's Blog

Previous Blog Entries

Dec 2014 - Taser

May 2014 - Home Secretary - Political "Shock & Awe"

October 2013 - Is the big question, are the IPCC fit for purpose?

August 2013 - Police Integrity

January 2013 - Police Pensions - Sold Down The River?

September 2012 - Taking Any Active Part in Politics!

July 2012 - Causual Overtime - Myth Buster

June 2012 - Best "Man" for the Job or a Piece of Ill-Judged Provocation?

20 April 2012 - Police Privatisation - A Threat to Policing by Consent - Myth or Reality?


Current Blog Entry

The use of Taser and, more importantly the myths.

Dorset's PCC has called for a ban on the use of Tasers in police stations describing such use as "obscene". Here's the link to the BBC story - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-30444354

Police officers are highly trained professionals who apply their professional judgement and training when deciding what level of force to use. They will consider a number of factors including the safety of the individual, the public's safety and their own safety. They will consider the use of physical restraint, pepper or CS spray or a baton such as an ASP, in essence a metal bar. There are then a group of officers who are trained to an even higher level and they are authorised to carry and in if necessary use an additional tool - Taser.

Importantly, once an officer has used force they are rightly held to account for that use of force whether by their own Professional Standards Department or the IPCC. Police officers are accountable for their actions. They have to justify what they have done.

You may recall the incident involving the man outside Buckingham Palace threatening to cut his own throat. This man, clearly suffering from a mental illness, was Tasered and there was an outcry. What were the officers supposed to do to protect that man, themselves and other members of the public? Shoot him? Get close enough to baton him and risk being stabbed themselves? None of the critics could suggest a viable alternative to using Taser, certainly not an alternative that wouldn't have resulted in far greater injury to the man or even death. The officers could have stood by and let him cut his own throat, hardly in keeping with the protection of life. The result was the man lived and suffered no more than a couple of pin pricks thanks to the police officers.

Imagine a similar scenario in a police cell. A detained person (DP) has fought all the way into the police station and is put directly into a cell. Officers withdraw to let him/her calm down. Perhaps the DP is searched but has a weapon secreted about their person. He/she produces a knife or razor blade and threatens to kill himself/herself or anyone who enters the cell. Talking isn't working - they're not listening. What do you do next? Open the door and rush them? Put on riot gear, grab a shield and do a cell entry? Enter the cell and hit them with a baton? Use pepper or CS spray (substances that don't always have any effect) and contaminate the cell? All these options could result in severe injuries to the officers and the detained person. Positional asphyxia and excited delirium are real risks that could result in the DP's death. The clock is ticking and he/she is starting to cut his/her neck. Come on, there's no time for a desk top process or a gold group; you've got seconds to make a decision. What would you do?

A police officer steps forward, the cell door is opened and Taser is deployed. This enables the officers to keep their distance. The DP is immobilised and drops the knife or razor blade. The only injury inflicted by the police is two small pin pricks. The DP is safe and the officers all get to go home to their families.

It makes no difference to this scenario whether the individual is solely suspected of a crime or is suffering from a mental health condition. The wielded knife causes the same damage irrespective of who is wielding it.

The comments made by Dorset's PCC, Martyn Underhill are I believe ill-considered. They are also somewhat surprising considering his background as a police officer with 30 years of experience. It's time we started to view Taser for what it is and not solely as an alternative to lethal force. It is a vital protection for police officers, the public and, if only people could see it, the person who is Tasered too.

Ian Pointon
Chairman
Kent Police Federation