A few words that changed my life forever

I can remember on my very first day at training school I stood, along with about 300 others in front of a local Magistrate and took an oath, a few words that changed my life forever. When someone takes the oath of attestation to become a police officer I think people forget exactly what it entails. Being a police officer is not just a day job, it’s something that I have to think about 24/7; when I’m out with my fiancé, when I’m on nights out with mates and even when I’m just shopping in Tesco, it’s not something that I can just say ‘I’m off duty now so I’m not interested’. As police officers we are duty bound to always step in where necessary and this has led to me having to sacrifice a lot for the job. I’ve missed out on a weddings, stag do’s, family birthdays, the list is endless and I’m sure officers, along with other emergency services and armed services personnel all over the world go through the same thing.

When taking the oath I swore to do my best to prevent all offences against people and property, this is something that I take pretty seriously. By taking this oath it doesn’t just mean for members of the public, it includes everyone, including my fellow officers, so when someone gets injured unnecessarily and we find out that it could have been prevented it angers me. What also angers me is when people stand up in the media and talk down our job when they do not know the facts about what we actually do and what we have to contend with in our days at work. As you may have guessed by now what I’m going to discuss in this blog is the use of Taser by the police.

I’ve not really kept it much of a secret but I’m in the Metropolitan Police, apparently one of the best and most enviable police forces (sorry, we’re not a force we’re now a service) in the world. Contrary to popular belief, in the Met our accessibility to Taser is very limited. According to the media we have approximately 3000 ‘highly trained’ officers who have the ability to deploy Taser, these officers are members of CO19 (Armed response officers) or our Territorial Support Group, they are Pan-London resources so could be patrolling a different area maybe three or four boroughs away. These officers do not routinely attend 999 calls like response teams. There are exceptions to this of course, i.e. for firearms calls or public order incidents when they will be deployed from the start, but generally we have to request them if they are not patrolling our borough. Something to remember with response teams is we are the officers that are always walking in to the unknown, every time we walk inside an address or we speak to someone in the street, it is a complete unknown risk and anything could happen at any second. We very very rarely attend incidents that are pre-planned and therefore we never know what we’re going into.

Even though certain parts of the media claim that Taser is readily available to us on response teams I would like to tell you the process of how we actually go about getting the resource and how the current system could result in a delay that WILL cost someone their life eventually. I will then back this up by calls that I have dealt with.

When the police receive a 999 call it gets routed through ‘Metcall’, which is our force communications room, this can take a number of minutes to obtain the necessary details and despatch the call over the radio, when a unit is assigned it could take anywhere up to 20 minutes to arrive at the scene. I work on a small borough so we can get most places in the borough in less that 10 minutes, however I’ve been told by colleagues on large outer boroughs that it can take them over 20 minutes on a blue light run to get from one side of the borough to the other. Once a unit arrives at the scene something could then happen spontaneously where they may then decide that a Taser is needed. This could take anywhere up to another 15-20 minutes for a Taser capable unit to arrive (although I will share a recent incident I dealt with where it took 45 minutes for them to arrive), so by now we could be anywhere over 30 minutes into the call before one has arrived. Due to the nature of what we deal with and the spontaneity of what we deal with, time is a luxury that we cannot afford. Things can happen in an instant and we need to be resilient enough to deal with them as they happen. I am not blaming these units for taking so long to arrive, this is not their fault, they do a great job, my problem is with the current policy.

I’d like to share a few incidents that I have dealt with lately where it has been pure luck that no one was killed and Taser would have been the best tactical option.

A few months ago when we received a call to a knifepoint at 7am on a weekday morning, I was in our unmarked car in plain clothes and was sent to keep observations on the suspect. CCTV was also following him and had already been seen with a large kitchen knife in his hand. He was walking up and down the road and past ordinary members of the public. Luckily he didn’t approach anyone else but we had to wait for the arrival of taser officers. As they came flying around the corner about 10 minutes later sure enough he started to make off on his bike so they gave chase and he was Tasered and arrested. That was 10 minutes when he could have approached an innocent member of the public and presented the knife, just think that could have been you on your way to work at 7am! If response teams were equipped with Taser he could have been detained straight away preventing that delay of 10 minutes, I would say this is very lucky that it didn’t end a different way someone being seriously injured.

Last week I was working off-borough on a carrier with 7 other officers conducting patrols when a call came out to a man in a shop armed with a broken bottle trying to attack the staff. When we arrived there he was inside with a broken bottle neck in his hand and slashing at his own arms. He was suffering from some mental health problems, but he clearly posed a serious danger to himself and to members of the public. The staff were hiding in a room at the back and the male was at the front of the shop. He would not talk to us and was trying to get out into the street; obviously we couldn’t let this happen, as it was a busy main road with lots of people around. All of a sudden he ran out the back, unbeknown to us the staff had managed to escape through a back door at that point but we thought he was running to attack them. We chased after him; we all had short shields (although the sergeant and I were the only actual level 2 public order officers on the carrier and we weren’t kitted up). He ran into a small toilet where we managed to contain him. By this point we had requested officers from the TSG to attend with a Taser. I won’t get into the finer details of it, but we kept him contained in this room whilst we waited for TSG to arrive, this took 45 minutes!! The man was detained safely and arrested after an hour of us being there, and yes he was Tasered. I think we were extremely lucky that no members of the public, police officers or the male himself were seriously injured. If we had been equipped with Taser it would have been dealt with in less than 5 minutes and there wouldn’t have been 55 minutes where someone could have potentially been killed.

It was only last night that my colleague and I were on patrol around the borough when a call came in from a member of the public stating that they could see a male holding a 10 inch kitchen knife and standing in the street. We were sent to an RVP (rendezvous point), whilst a plain-clothes unit drove past, we waited at the RVP for about 10 minutes when it came out over the radio that the male had put the knife down and walked towards the officers so he was detained by them. I went and saw this knife and it was massive, without doubt it would have caused life changing injuries if not killed someone. This gentleman was also suffering from Mental health issues, mental health is a serious problem where I work and it is a lot more prevalent in society than I think most people realise. Again, it was just pure luck that this male didn’t turn violent and stab someone or hurt himself.

These are only a few incidents I’ve dealt with recently, but I could go on for a few hours with incidents like these that we deal with everyday and I know that officers all over the country could tell you stories of incidents they have dealt with like this.

On Monday 21st November, ITV news had a piece about the Commissioners announcement about Taser being more widely available, you can view it here: http://www.itv.com/london/howe-supports-tasers46686/

A gentleman called Oliver Sprague of Amnesty International had his chance to speak up, he says that Taser should ‘only be in the hands of the most highly trained officers’ this is something I have a major problem with and will discuss shortly.

I think I should talk a little bit about Sophie Khan, who according to her twitter bio is  ‘a solicitor-advocate specialising in Actions Against the Police’, She was interviewed on the above piece. Firstly, why is she bringing young children and old people into the discussion, what does that have to do with police officers being issued with Taser? Secondly, how are police officers being at risk a ‘limited scenario’, I can assure her it isn’t limited, it is very commonplace. It also doesn’t matter why the Taser was introduced into the country years ago, it is capable of protecting lives and that’s all that matters. She then said, when referring to the dreadful scenes at the weekend where three officers were stabbed and another injured in Kingsbury, ‘it was a very very freak incident’. This statement is factually incorrect and I’d love to know where she gets her facts from that it was a freak incident. Just because incidents aren’t reported in the press it doesn’t mean that they don’t happen, for example two officers were stabbed in East London a year ago, one of them being stabbed three times. This didn’t even make the news so for her to say that is completely insulting and massively naïve of her. Lets not forget the officers that were stabbed on a bus in Ealing earlier this year, How many officers need to be stabbed and attacked before it becomes too much because I’m aware of 7 officers so far. What if it had been 7 members of the public, would things be different? The incidents happen all over London every single shift but largely go unreported.

If someone is carrying a 10inch knife, why should I have to get within arms reach of him and potentially get myself stabbed when we have this amazing piece of equipment that means we can keep physical distance between us and an armed suspect. She also admitted that it was acceptable for officers to use if our lives are in danger, well again, that is a lot more frequent than she realises. She goes on to state that we have ‘plenty of other powers to use’, well I put it to her, how are powers and legislation going to disarm a knife wielding maniac? She states that we also have numbers so we can call in backup, well as this YouTube video shows http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnhdFVcMLcg … numbers don’t mean anything when someone is running around the streets with a machete!

Finally, she ended by saying ‘And there are traditional policing that should be being pushed forward rather than this new Taser…’ WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

I have seen on Twitter that people have been calling for her to become a special constable so she can see what we actually deal with. Sophie, if you are reading this, I beg you to sign up, or at least spend two weeks in a response car so you can see first hand what we actually deal with before you undermine and crticise the brave and dangerous work that we do.

I fully understand that there are two sides to every story and I’m a massive advocate of having an open debate about it after all, everyone should have their chance to speak, maybe I am only seeing the argument from my side, but the same could be said about the likes of Amnesty International and Sophie Khan, you should also try and see our point of view.

Since this debate has started a few days ago I keep reading that Taser should only be given to ‘highly trained officers’, now what exactly does this mean? If I go and complete the required training to carry one, just the same as a firearms officer, do I not become that highly trained officer? Or are they saying that firearms officers are better than PC’s on response teams and we are not skilled enough to be trained? Even though we can be trusted with batons and CS spray, which can potentially cause a lot more harm than a Taser.

Communication is always my first tactical option in any situation, however quite frequently this communication breaks down and we then have to rely on other tactical options, this includes batons or CS spray. CS spray is never my first choice as it seriously affects me. It is completely indiscriminate and affects anyone in close proximity, including officers. I was involved in detaining someone a few nights ago who we ended up on the floor, 4 of us still couldn’t control him so someone used their CS, 2 of us officers were instantly incapacitated having to crawl away because we couldn’t see and were in excruciating pain. CS is not guaranteed to work on everyone and can sometimes take up to 20 seconds to take effect so what happens to that knife wielding suspect who isn’t affected by CS, but the all the officers are, he then has plenty of targets who can’t defend themselves. The effects of Taser also only seconds, where as I can vouch for the fact the CS is pretty painful for over 20 minutes!

A new big thing in the Met at the minute is single patrolling, and this is something that from the sounds of it is here to stay, meaning officers are even more of a target with even less backup. I do have some issues policing a busy inner London borough on my own, however if it is to stay I think we should be better equipped in order to do so.

Don’t get me wrong, I may have my hang-ups with the job and I’ve made plenty of sacrifices for it but I do chose to do it and I have never regretted taking my oath. I standby the fact that it is still the best job in the world and one of the most rewarding, I look forward in going to work and am very proud of the work that we do and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. Just try not to forget that whilst you are going to work, heading out for dinner, or just sitting in for the night, there are police officers all over the country who aren’t being issued the best equipment to do the job, fighting with armed suspects and putting their lives on the line so that you may live in a safe society.

As I stated in my last blog, the police are not there to be liked, and in my honest opinion I think we are spending way too much time worrying about public confidence and what people think about the police and not enough time worrying about the safety of the public. If it upsets 99% of the population by me carrying a Taser, but I can save one persons life I don’t care what the 99% think, I just care about that one person and their family.


22 responses

  1. A well written blog. Being a taser trained officer I couldnt have said it better. The argument for only being issued to firearms officers is ridiculous. Infact the taser officers course is 3 days as per ACPO guidelines. The firearms course covers taser in 4hours. They are not as competent or skilled in its use and ask any firearms officer and if they are honest they will admit it. ACPO guidelines also states officers with taser should at all costs be double crewed and that sits well with me. Single crewed is both costly and dangerous. Joe public may want to see more bobbies on the street but do they want to see more cost to send 2 cars to a domestic costing more fuel vehicle wear and time to RV before hand. I would say no. Taser is still a political hot potato but it astounds me why that is. It is on the same level as CS which comes before empty hand skills and the use of baton????? It’s all about public perception and this spin phrase of “POLICING BY CONSENT!” We do not and never have policed by consent. We police to keep everybody safe!

    Great blog. Can’t wait to read the next installment.

  2. Great follow-up – keep em coming 😉

  3. Tired of seeing our police forced into bowing down to wrongdoers. The pink fluffy handcuff approach does not work. It is time for the three P’s above all else. Public Protection and Prevention. Its what we pay you for, it’s what go up in arms about when you fail at it, and yet all the while we make it more and more difficult for you to deliver. Great piece, well written and highly informative. Will share with all contacts as this message needs to be out there. Your ending sentence says it all as far as we are concerned, however, we believe you have far more support on this issue than you realise. Well done. Look forward to more of your expert and valuable opinion

    1. I am not a police officer but my previous experience prior to becoming  a student gives me a bit of insight into the issues raised.

      The fact of the matter is either firearms or TASER will have to become a necessity for all police officers in due course. 

      As mentioned TASER is often used as an alternative to jobs which would often involve a response from an ARV. If an Armed officer deploys a weapon they I will assume “Shoot to stop” this won’t end like a Hollywood film and a doctor claiming it’s just a flesh wound but more likely result in someone’s death. 

      The red top rags will post their usual scare mongering headlines saying why wasn’t TASER used and the police will have to waste yet thousands more on PR not to mention the lost hours whilst a police officer is investigated for using lethal force.

      The point is the police are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The other question is if a police officer shoots someone and TASER is not available. But TASER could have been used instead could the home office be liable for corporate manslaughter? 

      It was mentioned earlier that the police aren’t here to be liked while this is true the British police services polices by the consent of the public and therefore needs to maintain the publics confidence.

      This confidence will be severely diminished should routine arming of police officers whether  TASER or firearms alike be implemented without the support of the public.Then again the confidence in the police services takes a dramatic hit everytime police officers are unable to effectively deal with a job and have to delay dealing with it until specialist support arrives. Which puts them back at damned if they do damned if they don’t.

      I agree with the original poster that public saftey should be paramount however and hard decisions need to be made soon.

  4. There is a lot of resistance fron the general public to the routine arming of officers with Taser. Much the same as there is with firearms.

    There are many alternatives put forward such as giving it to ARV’s or public order staff such as TSG or key officers on each team.

    These are plausible in many ways. I think the public would generally accept that the arming of UK officers is going to come sooner or later but jumping from A-Z is too much to comprehend. It has so far been and will remain a phased introduction.

    I can remember outrage and concern from some quarters when batons began to replace truncheons but they are now simply accepted.

    Taser is an incredibly versatile tool and offers a degree of safety that cuffs, baton and sprays do not offer. That is the opportunity to remain at much more than arms length and still give the opportunity to disable a violent person safely.

    The trouble with limited officers having the kit is that when they are needed they are somewhere else. They are on another division, committed to another job or have a prisoner in custody.

    Some forces are considering putting taser in response cars. This is great but if you are single crewed, it’s in the car and you need it, your violent weapon wielding person is not likely to hit the pause button whilst you get your kit together. Secondly; no matter how well intentioned, kit that is stored in vehicles is generally less well looked after than personal issue. You dash out to a job at the start of the shift only to find that a) it’s not there or b) it’s bust and nobody has bothered to fix it.

    As far as Taser is concerned if its availability is to be broadened then it should be to all officers as personal issue.

    Any argument that it should only be issued to highly trained officers is quite frankly insulting. Police defence tactics are taught at a high level already. Once trained… you are trained and subject to periodic requalification as we do for cuffs and baton you are authorised to carry and use.

    As a lesser tactical option to baton strikes and sprays it seems bizarre themat there is such an issue over it. That said we have to accept that despite the detailed training given out somebody somewhere will be tasted when they shouldn’t be. We have to accept that this will happen, just as much as knowing that putting somebody on the road in a car will lead to an accident eventually. The important bit when such incidents happen is that we are self critical, learn from our experiences, listen and respond to our critics and be open and transparent with investigations.

  5. Excellent blog and responses all. We are getting our argument tight and tidy unlike the powers that be who seem preoccupied with the wobblers who seem to think its like wiring prisoners up to a car battery in custody for our entertainment. Then there are members of the press who seem intent on finding a link between a death and Taser and some senior police officers so far removed from the street and reality they feel at home pandering to any change of policy tack which might get them noticed and give them a sense of self worth.
    We double crew our Taser units with covert carry in our vests. This seems to cover most scenarios and allows immediate spontaneous deployment or one authrised by specially trained ranking officers. I find It works well.
    It’s just terrible shame that officers have to get injured or killed to change opinions. There must be better indicators of the risks faced than the worst case scenarios only.

  6. […] A few words that changed my life forever I can remember on my very first day at training school I stood, along with about 300 others in front of a local Magistrate and took an oath, a few words that changed my life forever. When someone t… […]

  7. Policing by consent has always been fundamental to the police service since Robert Peel. This should not be construed that the police have to do everything that the public demand. However the police are public servants and should always work to the best interest of the general public if the consent of the general public (Whether they like it or not)

  8. Arghhh bit of an error there,

    It should read if the consent of the general public is to be maintained. Once that consent has gone we become no better than… The French

  9. Firstly, thanks to the 354 people who have so far read this blog, I never would have imagined it would have been as widely read as it has been. Thanks so much to everyone who has retweeted or publicised it, it really does make it worthwhile writing it to know that people are reading it and it’s actually sparking a debate about it.

    It means a lot that there is so much support there, I just hope that the politicians and senior officers take note of it.

    UNIFORMRESPONSE: That’s really interesting about the training, I never knew that. Why isn’t this spoken about in the media? It really should be because it’s an important point.
    I agree with you about single crewing, it’s all well and good have twice as much visibility, but where I work they haven’t increased the vehicle fleet so you might end up on foot, which is good for that street you’re in but when that emergency call comes out a couple of miles away you can’t get to it and then all the single crews cars have to go meaning there is no resilience for other calls! It’s not a good use of resources to in only having one police officer in a vehicle. As with all these ideas though, no doubt the person who implemented it used it as evidence for promotion (I know, very cynical). With all these changes that are happening, no-one seems to be consulting with the rank and file to see what consequences there will be!

    MAMAA: Thanks for your support, it’s a shame more of the people you speak to aren’t interviewed in the media opposite the likes of Amnesty International!

    JERRYISUBIQUE: I have no doubt that one day all police will armed, it is only a matter of time, whether or not that will happen in my service or not is another matter. Thats a very interesting point, even if I hit someone with my baton a broke their bone, could we be sued for causing damage when a TASER would have left no resulting injuries?
    Whilst I agree that we need to have confidence from the public, conversely if we know something would benefit them surely we have a duty to do it for the greater good even if they are not happy about it? It may be tough to come to terms with but we’d be doing it for their own good.

    THECUSTODYSGT: As i said above, I agree that we will be armed sooner or later, and I agree that going from one extreme to the other is not advisable, so this could be the perfect compromise for all parties. I was thinking about the batons earlier, and when CS was first introduced, was there the same resistance from the public?
    Having TASER is the car is a step in the right direction but as I said to my colleague the other night, I’d still take it out of the car at every call I go to because you never know what could happen whilst your away from the car. Also, like you say, people just don’t look after things in cars. We have one ESD (roadside breathaliser) for our whole team, and thats not always available because people nick them and they break, I’ve lost count how many times I’ve called up for one to hear nothing back on the radio! I imagine after a few months TASER would be exactly the same!
    Your final paragraph hits the nail on the head. I think people are just scared and you’re right, I have no doubt that someone will be tasered when they shouldn’t, but I bet that this is exactly the same for batons and CS. By issuing personal TASERS we’re not saying that we are all gonna run around and start tasering every suspect, it will just be another tactical option for us and we will still be subject to the same use of force legislation and policy, it will still have to be justified just the same as any other force, I think people forget this.

    TASERCOP: As far as you know, has anyone actually turned around and said why were shouldn’t be armed with TASER, is it money or public confidence? Noone has been debating it from a practical point of view. Having a covert carry is a great way to do it, so people won’t see the big yellow gun until you draw it so it does not look oppressive, which doesn’t bother me, but I’d imagine a lo of people will!

    As i just Tweeted I’d love to take an MP, maybe the HomeSec out in a car with me for a week and tell them how it actually is at grass roots policing, not the opinions of a senior officer who hasn’t been anywhere near a response team for years. Although I was very impressed with the new Commissioner when he spent his first week travelling the Met and meeting officers (he even went out in the back of one of our cars with a couple of PC’s on team), he seems to be doing a lot to interact with his employees, a welcome change!

  10. I agree the greater good is important. I think TASER is a great idea however most of the populace is not as pragmatic as your average Soldier, Cuv Plod or Emergency Service Worker etc…

    The way I see it is TASER is an extra option. Without TASER use of force makes a massive jump from PAVA and Baton up to Lethal very quickly.

    No one should be forced into a position to take another’s life if it can be avoided. The responsibility and the weight of such decisions will haunt an individual for a long time. So putting TASER into the mix can only be positive. Like any weapon it should be treat with respect but so should ASP,PAVA and Speedcuffs all of which could cause significant injury if used incorrectly

  11. As I am specifically mentioned in this Blog, I thought I’d put in my response, so you can hear from the “likes of amnesty international first hand”

    Firstly, I am pretty sure that the clip from me was edited from a 5 minute interview to about a 20 second clip, so this does not get across nuances. From the outset, I will say we do not support the routine arming of all UK police officers with Taser. We do not say Taser should never be used, and indeed against knife or weaponised crime was one of its main justifications. A weapon that met a specific capability gap, a less lethal distance control weapon that was safer for the officer (your rights are vital in this too) and the individual concerned.

    Deployment times: I can’t comment on the cases put forward here. What I do know is that the TSG units were identified as the most suitable “specialist” units to augment Firearms units because they were mobile, specifically trained to deal with violent disorder and able to be deployed rapidly. This was the rational put forward, and accepted by the MPA etc. I also don’t know why Taser was not made available more quickly for the terrible tragic stabbing incident that prompted these exchanges. If there is indeed a serious problem in getting those specific units to the scene of incident in time, then clearly deployment and organisation of Taser officers should be examined.

    Training: The word “highly” trained was a mistake in hindsight. I should have said “specialist”. I did not mean to imply that Taser officers were better trained, but that specific training is required for Taser use. There are two aspects to training that are key, the ability to know how to fire the Taser (i.e. to make it work properly) and the ability to know “when” to fire it – given concerns raised by both article 2 and article 3 of ECHR. Taser does require specialist and on-going training. I’ve been to the MET course, both the initial 2 days and the refresher. Both are good tough courses and I am convinced that more of what is on offer is needed. The comparison to Firearms isn’t to say they are better trained, but they are drilled in scenario and technical proficiency based on-going evaluation. A weapon like Taser, in our view, should be kept in this type of training regime, given the dangers of misusing it and the need for it to be used in specific ways to be effective. This Training is expensive and time consuming, but vital.

    Taser whilst a useful tactical option is also not infallible, it’s not the magic solution often touted. For it to work correctly, the barbs have to penetrate close enough to the skin and a wide enough spread across muscle groups to cause the necessary incapacitating effect. I remain generally concerned that those with the most the gain (i.e. commercial entities) often over exaggerate its effectiveness. This is why the training aspect – accuracy and reliability – is so important, and this is expensive. The training cartridges themselves cost a small fortune; I know this because MET training staff themselves remains concerned about this.

    Taser is in our view not comparable to either Baton or CS, I’ve heard these arguments time and time again. Taser is a less lethal projectile weapon, capable of causing severe pain and it’s use is not risk free. Taser is defined as a firearm under UK law and subject to the tightest controls over its ownership and export and trade because of its potentially serious characteristics. You are all aware of the recent cases in the US where judgements have concluded Tasers can kill, especially when misused or against people with other health or physical issues. As far as I am aware, it remains classified as “specialist equipment”, and not as “personal protective equipment”, and therefore subject to specific controls and accountability processes and kept in the hands of selected officers. It’s use does raise serious and specific concerns in terms of both Article 2 and Article 3 of the ECHR because of the specific nature of the weapon (it’s and electro shock weapon). International standards such as the Use of force in firearms and related instruments and treaties clearly point to Taser as a category of less lethal tactical options that should be deployed, but must be kept under very careful evaluation and control. The UK’s police weaponry management and processes have this balance broadly correct in our view.

    I hope that this gives more perspective on our position. I think we do have good constructive relationships with Police and government officials working in this area and am always happy to meet, talk, and discuss all these issues in detail.

  12. Olly, thanks for taking the time to read and reply, it’s important to get the views of a variety people to make it an interesting debate!

    I think it’s a very fair comment to make that your interview was cut right down and maybe I was wrong to quote that out of context without hearing your full interview.
    I understand why TSG were initially chosen, but something that isn’t really mentioned is that TSG do not routinely carry them on patrols, as far as I am aware it’s only the Comissioners reserves (I won’t go into the complicated details of it how commissioners reserves work) but they are usually one or a few PSU’s that are on standby, so not every TSG carrier will have the ability to deploy taser.
    With the point that there are 3000 trained officers, according to the media the MPS has actually only purchased 1000 tasers (I have no confirmation of this), and within the Commissioners Reserve carrier you could have all the officers carry a taser, so that means potentially 6 Tasers in one carrier, obviously making there deployment limited as they are all in one place and not spread out across London.

    Just playing devils advocate with your comment on it not being comparable to CS, this is classified as a Section 5 firearm under firearms legislation, and is CS not also capable of causing severe pain and is not risk free? Just out of interest, have you ever been sprayed with CS and felt the effects?

    I completely agree that it’s not infallible and a magic solution, but I would hand on heart say that as a front line response team officer I would feel safer knowing that I personally have it as another tactical option to fall back when communication breaks down. Also I agree that commercial companies who have to make a profit will often say things in order to sell units, as we all know statistics can be moulded and adapted to say anything that we want!

    Thanks again for opening up the debate, it’s interesting to hear it from your perspective, although just as a matter for me, did you learn anything or change your opinion on anything from reading any of the above? No worries if you didn’t, just wondering! Oh, and just incase you think the tone of the questions is sarcastic, it isn’t, they are genuine questions that I’m interested in.

  13. Good blog. Taser training and availability should be rolled out force-wide to those who are comfortable using it and achieve a good training standard. Officer safety and public confidence will be enhanced through proportionate use.

    Unfortunately the (sometimes hysterical) opponents of increased taser avalability seem to want to encourage situations in which police officers will be injured and killed in the line of duty simply because they do not understand what really happens on our streets.

    I understand Amnesty International’s viewpoint and support it in principal, but feel that Oliver Sprague should avoid using patronising terms like ‘small fortune’ and ‘magic solution’ when attempting to express his view. It is entirely correct that safeguarding the human rights of all indiviuals in society (if not actually supporting the ECHR) is essential when considering the use of force against violent indivuals. PACE 1984 does this much better than ECHR and i urge Oliver to become familiar with it. I also urge him better understand the pressures and risks associated with dealing with violent individuals in a policing situation. His response only serves to underline his ignorance of appropriate tactical deployment.

    Another outspoken opponent of safeguarding our police officers, sorry i mean giving more police officers taser (and therefore a tactical advantage) is Sophie Khan who is alarmingly ill-informed and childish in her criticisms of any police action (justifiable or not) which involves injury to suspects and offenders. Granted there are a few unacceptable incidents where the police have been found ( a few, not ‘mostly’, as Sophie claims) to be at fault and perhaps as a result of the work Sophie does in acting as an advocate against the police her view seems not to be balanced. Indeed this was illustrated quite well when she appeared on a regional London news programme when she made a few non-sensical statements and then ended the interview with a giggle. Sophie has claimed not to have enough time to be a Special Constable (and she also cites a ‘conflict’ with her work rightly or wrongly) and has previously stated that using taser is a failure of communication on the police’s part and that she would always be able to communicate effectively (in a tactical situation). I really hope she has a spare evening for a ‘ride-a-long’ at some point because i think it would help her understanding in appreciating a situation of which she seems to be wholly ignorant. Her tweets are revealing as they are often factually incorrect and needlessly provocative.

    I for one would be comfortable carrying taser and would much rather have taser as a tactical option than not. I would welcome the training and value the justification in terms of increased officer safety. Indeed i would rather keep my distance from a violent offender than wrestle/baton/restrain them. I sometimes think the media should publish and publicise some tactical report writing guidelines we must adhere to in order to show how much justification is needed when considering any tactical options. I’d be happy to pay for the training and equipment too in case the ultimate decision is a budgeting one. (Officer) Safety should be the primary goal.

  14. oops, last comment was mine. Did not intend to be anon.

  15. PC7238: I think that is a key point with it being rolled, officers aren’t just going to be handed a taser and told to crack on, they will still have to reach the required standard and prove themselves to be competent with it.

    With the whole ECHR, Article 2 is important, and I think that this option has proved that it can prevent people from being killed, mean their right to life still exists. We must also think of the Human Rights of any victims, including the officers. The right to life exists for EVERYONE, and whilst I’m not saying that one life is more important than another, we need to consider any potential victims of knife attacks and the like. Should one of the officers have died last week, where was their right to life? As far as we all know should they have been given a taser they might not have been killed (for the purpose of this argument) or injured as was the case.

    Sophie Khan is very il-informed. Olly is speaking with sense and making some very pertinent points which I can fully get on board with, Sophie on the other hand didn’t seem to make much sense in that interview and had no facts to back her incoherent arguments. A lot of what she said wasn’t even relevant. I’m still stuck as to what this means… ‘And there are traditional policing that should be being pushed forward rather than this new Taser…’

    I also have a lot of respect for Olly for taking part in this blog and engaging into the argument, Sophie did tweet me the other day asking me to call her, but when I declined and asked her to comment on this instead I have not yet heard anything back from her ( she might just be busy?).

    I can see her point about having a conflict of interest, but conversely it may give her more of an understanding to help her do her job! I think her, along with some MP’s could really benefit from riding in the back of a car with a response team, mind you, some senior officers could also benefit from that!

  16. Much respect to Oliver Hague for engaging in this debate.

    Section 2 of the ECHR is consistently ignored, as Amnesty International should be aware.

    We could cite hundreds, no thousands, of cases where, had section 2 been considered, the murder victim would be alive today. But sadly, unlike offenders whose rights are breached by having lumpy prison cell mattresses, or having a little too much force used against them while being restrained (I got a bruise your honour), or not being able to sleep well in a prison cell because the night lights are a little too bright, victims of homicide do not get legal aid to fight their corner.

    Parole boards who release offenders who come out to commit murder, that surprises no one. Judges that grant bail to perps who walk out of court and kill their accuser, which surprises no one. YOT teams, YJB interventions and MAPAA systems that fail, and result in murder, which surprises no one. We would love Amnesty to take up the baton for victims of preventable homicide under the rules of the ECHR, and fund it, in the same way and with the same force as they are willing to champion for perpetrators of crime. There’s a challenge.

    The biggest problem we have with Taser, and the arguments against it, is nobody is talking about the lives it could, ultimately, save. If it saves just one, whether that is a member of the public, or an officer underequipped to protect said member, then it is worth it. To evaluate its merit, we should be looking at the effect preventable serious violence or homicide has on the victim. For that you should check out the Victims Commissioners report on victims and witnesses. In our opinion, Taser is worth every risk it carries and some.

    We hear a lot of objection to Taser, from people who are questioning “can your average bobby really be trusted with such a tool?”. We will state, on the record and categorically, that we have worked since 1993, with thousands of police officers from every rank and force. In that time we have come across a few who have possibly chosen the wrong profession. But 99.9% of the officers we have worked extremely closely with are decent, honest men and women, in the job for the right reasons, who do not abuse members of the public (perp or otherwise) with racist or abusive comments (despite what we might read in the Daily Mail) who can and should be trusted with a tool, that will save lives. Ours and theirs.

    A plea to Amnesty (sorry for this flagrant abuse of your blog laptop_cop). Contact us about Jane Clough. Murdered in the car park of her workplace, stabbed over 70 times, by her ex-partner. AFTER he was granted bail on charges of raping and beating her. This despite pleas to the judge from her family, police and the CPS! Section 2 of the ECHR is, in all honesty, worth nothing in the UK.

  17. You don’t have to say sorry to me, I agree with everything you just said and I couldn’t have said it any better myself! Although just to defend him, it’s Oliver Sprague, not Hague 😉

  18. I thought that I should write a follow-up piece about taser as a few things have risen out of the debate, a lot of what I’ll say might have already been suggested in the comments. So forgive me if I’ve plagiarised your views or comments, the credit for this isn’t all mine!

    I never realised that the taser course is a 3-day course but firearms officers only receive a 4-hour input on it. Now, as Olly Sprague pointed out, firearms officers are constantly doing drills and I agree with him that they are already of that sort of mind set, but it is something to consider that when you complete the 3 day course, which is what ACPO recommends to be competent in it’s use, you are then competent in it’s use. Just because we are talking about rolling it out to wider numbers, it doesn’t mean that these extra taser officers won’t be competent or less trained. There will just be MORE officers that are all trained to the ACPO guidelines and standards. It’s not like we’re going to be handed a taser one morning parade and told to crack on!

    Another thing which I think is worth mentioning is the discussion that taser might be carried in response cars, whilst I see that this is a step in the right direction, it has some drawbacks. I’m not naïve enough to think that we will go from no-one on response teams to suddenly every officer carrying one (even though this is what I strongly feel should happen), I know we have to come to some sort of compromise. By having taser inside each car does have it’s downside, the first being that when you get out the car you no longer have quick access to it, and in some situations if it’s not in arms reach then it might as well be 30 minutes away in an ARV. We only use our cars to get to the call, and we don’t always know what’s happening at a call until we get out of the car and make contact with the relevant people, so if it’s needed an officer might then have to go back to the car and get it, which wastes time you might not have and could leave you in danger if you’re on your own. I would also say that even if taser is only placed in cars and not issued to officers, I will still get it out of the car at every call I go to because you never know when you might need it, even the simplest of domestics or breach of the peace calls could go horribly wrong at any point.

    This would also mean that every car would have to be adapted, I’d imagine that the MPA would want some sort of gun ‘safe’ in the car rather than just clipping it to the dashboard, so when you’re not in the car someone can’t break in and steal it. How much would this cost?

    If you’re a police officer, I’m sure you’ll agree that ‘pool’ kit, that is kit that we all share isn’t looked after and more often than not when you get out to the car it’s gone missing or been swapped for a broken one. Someone suggested this to me on the blog and they’re exactly right. You will always look after kit a lot more if it’s personal issue. Give it 3 or 4 months and they’ll slowly start going missing by someone who’s moving to another borough or to a different unit. We see this all the time with our ESD’s (roadside breathalisers) and enforcers; it’s like gold dust trying to get hold of one of them sometimes!

    If all of us are not allowed to have one then what I suggest as a balance would be, rather than issue them in each car, they are issued to the drivers of the cars as personal issue. They are then in every car, but still at the disposal of the officers once out of the car. The taser course could be bolted on to the end of the driving course to ensure the training is all done at once and when you return to borough you do not have to wait months for a training date.

    I also like the idea that officers carry them in a covert case, i.e. a black covered case, on their vest, (or leg in some cases), this means that people do not have to feel intimidated by a big yellow gun looking thing on your belt, but it is a little more discreet and still in easy reach should you need it.

    There must be lots of other response teams all around the country who are now issued with taser and no one has made an issue about that, and as far as I’m aware no one has died because of it (I have no concrete evidence to back this up). Why are the Met not looking to them at how they have already achieved it without upsetting their local communities?

    There is lot’s of scaremongering doing the rounds that more people are going to be tasered as a result of more officers carrying it…. Well of course there is! That’s a fact a life, of course more people will get tasered, but how many less people will end up in hospital as a result of being hit by a baton? I’d imagine quite a lot! Currently where I work we just try and manage without a taser putting ourselves at greater risk, we just go to incidents with people armed with sharp objects and hope that no-one gets injured or have to use our other tactical options, that’s one thing we’re very good at in the police, just getting on with it. If we asked for a taser every time we went to a call where we might need one, the ARV’s would be on the borough constantly, and then think about every time it goes on in another borough, there just wouldn’t be enough ARV’s or tasers to go around!

    One final thing to note is that every time a taser is drawn, ‘red-dotted’ on someone’s chest, or used it is recorded and the statistics are sent to the home office for publication. Whenever I draw my baton or CS, it isn’t recorded so there is no way to quantify how much more it will be used than other options as there is no comparison between the two. Something that a lot of people forget I think.

    I promise I won’t keep banging on about this taser issue; it’s just something I feel very strongly about. I will write a blog about another topic in the next few days to spark a whole new debate!! Stay Safe!

  19. Thanks much for placing this info.

  20. Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman ACPO Taser lead | Reply

    Police officers have a duty to protect life and property and providing them with the tools to do the job, and an effective range of tactical options, is as much about protecting the public as it is about protecting the officers themselves. I start with this point because it has a tendency to become lost in the debate, which often focuses on police officers wanting more weaponry and an inference that they will misuse it.

    From a legal perspective, officers must use only as much force as is necessary in the lawful execution of their duty. To support them in doing so Article 2 of the UN Basic Principles states that; ‘Governments and law enforcement agencies should develop a range of means as broad as possible and equip law enforcement officials with various types of weapons and ammunition that would allow for a differentiated use of force and firearms.’

    Taser and other ‘less lethal’ technologies have been introduced to meet this requirement. Taser was first introduced in the UK in 2003 during a trial involving five forces; it was issued to authorised firearms officers as a less lethal alternative to conventional firearms. In 2004 this trial was extended to all police forces. In 2007 Taser was authorised for deployment, by authorised firearms officers but outside of firearms operations. In the same year a trial in ten forces began whereby non-firearms officers were trained and issued with Taser. Following these successful trials, in 2008, Taser was made available to all police forces for issue to specially trained officers.

    The latest Taser usage data will be released by the Home Office shortly and this will inform a thematic review being produced by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. It is important to clarify what we mean by Taser ‘use’. Use is defined as drawing the weapon, aiming it at a person, using the sighting system to ‘red dot’ a person, arcing the weapon where the cartridge is removed and electricity is passed between conductors to create a deterrent crackling noise, discharge of the weapon where the barbs are discharged at a person and ‘drive stun’ where the cartridge is removed and the Taser applied against the body. Previous data confirms that Taser discharges account for around 25% of use. Of significance is that in around 75% of cases the weapon is not discharged and its mere presence is sufficient to encourage a violent individual to become compliant. This does not support the notion that police officers will abuse Taser or are ‘trigger happy’ as described in one national newspaper.

    In common with batons, incapacitant spray, police dogs etc Taser is not a risk free option, but generally the electrical current is not dangerous. The weapon is often emotively described in the press as a ‘50,000 volt stun gun’. The truth is that 50,000 volts are only created to make the weapon arc; the electricity that actually passes into the body is far less, around 1200 volts. In any case voltage is not the issue, it is amperes that matter and a Taser discharges only 0.0021 amps (a Christmas tree bulb uses about 1 amp). It is the manner in which the electricity oscillates that has the effect on the neuromuscular system.

    The risks associated with Taser are more to do with the loss of muscular control and this can cause individuals to freeze on the spot, or fall to the ground, unable to break their fall. This creates an obvious risk of secondary injury as a result of falling onto a hard surface. Government medical advisors also highlight the potential risk to individuals of small stature or with heart defects and this is covered in officer’s training which remains one of the longest and most comprehensive training packages in the world.

    So why isn’t Taser issued to all front line police officers? These are operational decisions for individual Chief Constables. The Home Office Code of Practice on the Police Use of Firearms and Less Lethal Weapons places a requirement on Chief Constables to produce an annual Firearms Strategic Threat and Risk Assessment (STRA) and to ensure that sufficient numbers of their officers are selected, trained and equipped to respond to the threats identified. Alongside threat and risk, geography is important. Geographically smaller, but more urban forces, may be in a position to provide adequate Taser coverage from within force level specialist units. Response times in geographically larger, more rural forces, may necessitate equipping more front line patrol officers with Taser.

    The response times described in the blog would tend to suggest that Taser coverage was insufficient to meet the threat and this links to the Commissioner’s announcements on Taser and the fact that the Metropolitan Police Service is training an additional 1300 front line officers. I am also aware of a number of forces, including my own, which are extending the roll-out of Taser to provide better coverage and increased public and officer protection. But, I do not agree with some of the comments on this site; there have been a number of high profile adverse incidents involving Taser, and I firmly believe that maintaining public confidence is vital. Put simply Taser remains emotive and ‘if we abuse it we will lose it’. The roll-out of the side handled baton in this Country was postponed as a direct result of the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991, it is also worth remembering that this incidnet also involved the use of an earlier type of Taser device and this effectively stopped the issue of such devices for many years.

    There has been considerable public debate and even judicial reviews in some parts of the UK about the decision to issues Tasers in the phased way I have described above. So far we have brought the public opinion with us and the judicial reviews and comments have been supportive of the actions of the service. This phased approach, linked to threat assessment is, in my view, the correct way forward.

  21. special constable | Reply

    Brilliant post.

    As a special constable in a northern part of the country on a not so nice patch I agree regs really don’t have to tools to fight modern crime. People need to get away from policing from years ago with a local beat Bobby who knew all the local scrotes and knew who to look out for. The force I am in actually let’s specials go out on independent patrol in a car and attend any job that comes in. I myself have shouted up for a taser 5 times in 12 months after using spray on people with very little affect, even batton strikes make no difference to somebody on a mixture of alcohol and drugs. I have read all what acpo has to say on the matter of specials with taser and I can’t change that so I just have to do my best and try to make sure I get home to my wife in one piece. Saying that I would never take a place on a taser course that could be filled by a regular. It’s a dangerous job we all know that when we join but it’s about time people like khan realised we are not robo cop and armour only covers a small amount. The criminals won’t stop using knives if we stop using taser. I don’t know what you think about specials but I would like to say I am not here to out do the regs or take jobs. The regs on my block love having us in because it takes the weight off them when there is 6 grade 1s 3 bobbies in custody and the rest already dealing. I also like many other work nights, new year and this year Christmas day. Best wishes and thanks again for the post.

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