Concern over huge rise in Taser use by Warwickshire police
Tasers are being used more often by Warwickshire police, new Home Office figures show.
Officers on the force drew the weapon 161 times, between April 2017 and March 2018. Of those, they fired the Taser on 12 occasions, or 8 per cent of the time.
The rest of the time the weapon was used to threaten suspects, and in 94 cases officers aimed and partially activated the Taser so a red target dot appeared on the person.
Police officers must decide whether using a Taser is legal, proportionate and necessary in the situation. The use of Tasers by Warwickshire police has risen by 59 per cent over the last year.
Between January and December 2016, the previous comparable 12 month period, the force drew the weapon 101 times. However, officers fired their Tasers 12 fewer times in 2017-18.
Oliver Feeley-Sprague, from Amnesty UK, said the public should “resist drum-beat of calls for all police to carry a Taser”.
“Amnesty recognises that the police have a duty to protect the public and themselves from harm, but we’ve got serious concerns about the use of Tasers becoming the norm for day-to-day policing," he explained.
“Coroners have pointed to the use of a Taser as a key factor in the deaths of two people in the UK, but it’s likely Taser use was a factor in many more deaths. The Taser is a potentially lethal weapon and should be treated accordingly. We’re particularly concerned at the alarming rise in over-use against vulnerable and minority groups, including on people with mental health issues and BAME people.”
Across England and Wales, Tasers were used more than 17,000 times in 2017-18, compared with 11,300 incidents in 2016. However they were only fired 99 more times.
In Warwickshire, police used force against suspects on 1,537 occasions over the 12 month period. This includes forcibly handcuffing someone, hitting a suspect with a baton and using pepper spray.
The figures show that nationally, black people were disproportionately likely to have force used against them, particularly involving firearms and Tasers.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, of the National Police Chiefs' Council, said that although the statistics were in their infancy and did not show "a complete picture", they reflected a wider issue, adding: "It's something we're aware of. As data quality improves it will be the responsibility of police forces to explain why there were disparities... In use of force, and to act on any issues identified."
Across England and Wales, 12,000 people who experienced use of force were later detained under the Mental Health Act. "The data is reflective of what we all know - that mental health is a significant issue in the criminal justice system,” Mr Twist added.