The police watchdog has called for greater scrutiny on the use of Tasers following concerns about it being used on BME people and those with mental illnesses more than others.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) say they are aware of ‘concerns raised by a broad range of stakeholders’ about who Tasers are used on by officers when dealing with difficult & potentially violent situations.
The IOPC is investigating incidents in London, the West Midlands and Manchester which have occurred in recent weeks and have written to officials in those areas urging them to look at how they provide scrutiny on a local level.
“The IOPC recognises that the use of Taser is important in helping officers respond to often dangerous and challenging situations.
“However, more officers are now carrying Taser, and there are growing concerns both locally and nationally about its disproportionate use against black men and those with mental health issues”, Director General Michael Lockwood said.
“Robust oversight of cases involving Taser is essential for maintaining public confidence in the police use of this kind of force. We need transparency around how and when it is used, and a visible demonstration that police forces are learning from their experiences of using it.
“While the IOPC has a role to investigate the most serious matters involving Taser, Police and Crime Commissioners also have an important role in providing community assurance about scrutiny of Taser use.”
But the Police Federation of England and Wales has disputed the IOPC’s calls, labelling it a “robust oversight”.
Police Federation of England and Wales’ Conduct and Performance Lead Phill Matthews, said:
“We do not recognise and disagree there is a disproportionate use of Taser against BAME communities or people with mental ill-health – and we are certainly not aware of any concluded cases where an officer has been criticised on their use of Taser by the IOPC.
“But of course, we will wait and see if any recommendations or findings come out of its investigations, and if so, we will work with the IOPC to change policy.
“We remain convinced that Taser is an essential piece of equipment which saves the lives of both officers and members of the public. We are very much still a country that polices by consent.
“And given the huge number of incidents police officers attend, the number of times Taser is used remains very small. The mere presence of the equipment is often enough to de-escalate situations making it extremely effective.”
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