TASER devices defended as 'less lethal option' by Suffolk police union

A policeman demonstrating a US-style taser stun gun Picture: PA WIRE

Suffolk Police Federation has defended TASER devices, after a report criticised their usage - Credit: PA

TASER devices have been defended as "a less lethal option when compared to firearms" by a Suffolk police union - amid concerns over use of such weapons.

Conductive Energy Devices (CEDs) were first trialled by police in the UK in 2003, with all forces using them by 2013.

They fire up to 50,000 volts of electricity in rapid pulses to temporarily incapacitate a suspect, so officers can bring the offender under control.

However, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has said police risk “losing the trust and confidence of the communities they serve” if they do not address serious concerns over the use of TASER devices.

A police taser Picture: GETTY IMAGES/iSTOCKPHOTO

CEDs have been used by all police forces in the country since 2013 - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Their investigation found that black people were more likely to be subjected to prolonged TASER discharge, compared with white people, according to a review of 101 investigations the watchdog carried out involving CEDs between 2015 and 2020.

Darren Harris, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said: “We recognise that reviews into police powers – such as the use of TASER devices – are vital in maintaining trust with the people we serve but this one by the IOPC doesn’t paint a complete picture.

“The recommendations are based on a review of just 101 incidents over five years, all ones investigated by the IOPC, out of almost 100,000 times it was deployed.

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"That’s just 0.1% of all uses, and ignores good practice in other incidents.

Darren Harris, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation

Suffolk Police Federation chairman Darren Harris said he had concerns over the report - Credit: MartisMedia/Jason Bye

“I’m also disappointed that the IOPC failed to consult the Police Federation of England and Wales.

“Officers who carry TASER are given the best training and the best support.

"They’re the ones when confronted with potentially violent situations making the decisions and with only seconds to do so and they have to protect themselves and the public.

“In the majority of incidents, just drawing it out of a holster can de-escalate a situation and it’s a less lethal option when compared to firearms.”

The IOPC report comes in the wake of the death of former Ipswich Town footballer Dalian Atkinson, who died following an "excessive" 33-second CED deployment in the West Midlands, as well as being repeatedly kicked.

Dalian Atkinson, who played for Ipswich during the 1980s, died after being shot with a Taser in 2016

Former Ipswich Town footballer Dalian Atkinson died after being subjected to an 'excessive' CED deployment - Credit: Archant

Pc Benjamin Monk was convicted of manslaughter over Mr Atkinson's death.