Since the introduction of Tasers to the UK police force in 2003, the number of officers carrying tasers, as well as the number of incidents involving tasers, has grown dramatically. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, there were 18,000 reported incidents involving tasers, which have disproportionately affected black people and people with mental disabilities.
13% of incidents involving a taser concerned people with mental disabilities, while only 2% of the population of the UK is classified as such. 20% of taser incidents affected black people who only account for 3.3% of the population. Despite the reputation as a less deadly weapon, taser incidents have grown too frequent and too deadly.
Since their introduction, there have been 18 fatalities linked to the use
of tasers in the UK. These startling statistics raise the question: how can the UK
reduce the use of tasers and minimise bias in the decision to use
a taser while still protecting public safety?
I intend to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether there are any plans to train police
officers to utilise a range of de-escalation techniques, instead of using tasers too quickly.
Additionally, I’d like to know if Her Majesty’s Government will consider requiring all police officers in England and Wales who carry tasers to also be equipped with Body Worn Video devices (BWVs), as their presence may reduce the number of incidents involving tasers in the UK.
Alternative de-escalation training and BWV usage have the potential to reduce the use of tasers as officers will be better equipped to access risk in potentially dangerous situations. Officers may feel an implicit pressure to ensure any use of force is reasonably justified if their interactions are recorded with a BWV. The footage is imperfect, but can still provide invaluable information about disputes and serve as a learning tool for future training efforts. The ability to analyse past real-world interactions will allow us to determine whether the use of force was justified.
De-escalation training can aid officers in determining whether a suspect’s behaviour is inherently combative or the result of a learning disability or mental breakdown. The ability to differentiate between these underlying causes is crucial, as the
distinction should inform the officers’ response to the potential threat.
We must take a stand against the excessive and discriminatory usage of tasers in the UK.