Police Action Centre: Taser roll-out did not follow Home Office guidance

Sophie Khan, Lawyer and Director of Legal & Policy of the Police Action Centre says that the Taser Working Group was able to highlight key issues of concern in the

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Amnesty criticises Met police’s Taser expansion plans -Guardian 22 November 2011

Met chief Bernard Hogan-Howe said force was thinking of having a Taser in every police car to facilitate rapid deployment

Amnesty International has criticised plans being considered by Britain’s biggest police force for an increase in the number of Tasers it issues to officers.

Bernard Hogan-Howe, commissioner of the Metropolitan police, said it was thinking of having one of the devices in every police car, so they can be deployed more quickly.

Hogan-Howe’s comments came in the wake of the stabbing of four officers in Harrow, north-west London, on Saturday. Current policy means specially trained officers are issued with them, though some claim that means they can take too long to reach incidents.

Critics say they can be dangerous, even fatal, and change the nature of British policing.

Hogan-Howe, speaking on LBC Radio in London, said: “One of the options is every police car; another one might be one of our response cars. There are various options – the dog car might carry it. I think to have more availability than we have now is essential. How widely is a discussion we need to have with the [Metropolitan] Police Authority and perhaps with the new mayor’s person in January.”

In recent months the Met has publicly toyed with employing more muscular technology to keep order, including water cannon and rubber bullets against rioters.

But Amnesty International criticised the idea of issuing more officers with Tasers: “There are instances when Tasers can be an effective weapon. However, such incidences are rare. There are more than 2,000 Met police officers who are already able to use Tasers, so it’s not clear why these officers weren’t called upon this Saturday .

“Given that these are potentially lethal weapons, which should only be used in serious, life-threatening circumstances and by the highest trained officers, no rash decision should be taken … following a very tragic but very rare incident.”

According to the Association of Chief Police Officers: “The Taser is a single-shot weapon designed to temporarily incapacitate a subject through the use of an electric current, which temporarily interferes with the body’s neuromuscular system.”

Solicitor Sophie Khan, who has represented people Tasered by police, said: “They are not safe. The risks of using them on someone are not calculated. This is an overreaction to what happened in Harrow, which is a very rare incident.”

Paul McKeever, chair of the Police Federation, told the Guardian that the mood among rank and file officers was changing, and that increasing numbers of his members wanted a Taser: “There is a debate going on about the availability of Tasers and how widely they should be issued. There are more officers who want more availability than in the past. If they protect officers and the public, that has to be a good thing.”

Dee Doocey, a Liberal Democrat member at the London Assembly, expressed concern. She said: “To move from a relatively small number of highly trained police officers being armed with a Taser to a situation where 6,500 police cars in London routinely carry them on everyday patrols would do irreparable damage to the reputation of our unarmed police service, which is the envy of the world.”

Christopher Houghton, 32, of Milford Gardens, Wembley, appeared in custody at Westminster magistrates court on Tuesday over the stabbings of four policemen in Harrow.Two of the officers remain in hospital.

In a statement after the commissioner’s comments, the Met said it “can confirm a piece of work is ongoing to review the current availability of Tasers, to ensure the best possible protection for staff and the public. We will continue to maintain an open dialogue with the MPA on this issue.”