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Policing Methods: Should Police Officers of England and Wales be armed with tasers?

The introduction in the use of tasers by frontline Police Officers of England and Wales came in 2003 as an alternative to Police Officers being armed with firearms. Of course it’s introduction was backed by the Association of the Chief Police Constables claiming that ‘taser’s are a way to deal with the threat of violence, violent individuals and pose a significantly less risk than other options that could be used by the Police’.

Following the death of Jordan Lee Begley, aged 23 at the time of his death, the use of tasers by frontline Police Officers poses the question as to whether police officers should be armed with taser’s. Since the introduction of tasers, Begley is one of ten individual’s that has died as a result of being shot by a taser. This may not be a significantly large number in comparison to deaths in custody since 2003, but, where there is any death that arises out of policing methods there is always a cause for concern.

A taser was discharged on Jordan Lee Begley after reports were made to the police that he had a samurai sword in his possession and was waving it around whilst in a dispute with his neighbour. Jordan Begley died two hours after being shot by a taser. It was later discovered, that what the police believed to be a samurai sword, was in fact a wooden stick.

In a more recent incident, the Met police were forced to pay compensation and legal costs amounting to more than £400,000 for discharging a taser on an innocent man, named Daniel Sylvester. It is said that Daniel Sylvester was stopped and searched three times in just nine months after buying a car previously linked to a violent criminal. Nothing was found during any of the searches of his car. However, on the second occasion Daniel was shot by a taser. Mr Sylvester later sued for damages, for false imprisonment and assault. He was awarded £8,200 in damages after an 11-day hearing at Central London County Court after the jurors found that the use of the Taser was not reasonable. Now, if trained Police Officers are unable to differentiate between a samurai sword and a wooden stick, or if they choose to victimise an innocent individual because of a material item he possesses, being previously associated to a violent crime individual, I think it’s safe to say that police officers should not be armed with such lethal weapon. It is apparent that in these two circumstances there was no imminent threat of violence or danger to life, neither did the Police have prior intelligence to suggest that their victims were violent to warrant the discharge of taser.

More worryingly and according to news reports backed by previous statistical information issued by the Home Office, figures show that more than 400 youths have had tasers drawn on them by police in England and Wales in 2013. An increase of 38% on 2012. In the number of children who had a tasers aimed at them, they were fired 37 times at 10 to 17-year-olds. With these figures and because it is believed by police that tasers pose less risk to endangering life, are they excessively using their weapon towards the young children as a means of intimidation?

Although government statistics now indicate a slight decrease in UK taser use, it is believed the level of threat officers pose when armed with tasers is still an issue that should be addressed. Statistics show that in 2014, in the 43 police forces of England and Wales the police used tasers 10,062 times, representing a decrease. Following the release of the statistical information published by the Home Office, there have now been calls for the use of tasers to be reviewed.

Whichever way you look at it, it is evident that although nationally there is a slight decrease in their overall use, as long frontline Police Officers are armed with tasers, the public is still and will continue to be, intimidated and threatened by the use of these lethal electronic weapons.