Last week a man was tasered outside Buckingham Palace; he was in possession of two blades and was making threats. It was felt by the police that this man ought to be tasered in order to end the situation which left onlookers in shock. The greater deployment and use of Taser is a matter for policing and the community and some of us have asked for a Taser National Media Strategy.
In 2011 the incident involving Mark Duggan sparked off rioting in the London boroughs; and this quickly spread to many parts of England. I say this carefully; whilst the Duggan incident was a spark for the riots, it was not necessarily the cause of all the rioting. The government must accept responsibility for its part in creating policies that were hitting young people and communities quite hard at a time of what we now know as a triple dip recession. Some of us may believe that the police and community will face conflict some times over contentious issues; issues such as the use of reasonable force are always controversial.
We also know that the Metropolitan Police (MPS) is now significantly increasing its availability of Taser within boroughs. The Met will probably lead in rolling out Taser deployment before other forces. Their experience will be absolutely critical to other police forces and the perception of the MPS in the community is a relevant factor. The incident outside Buckingham Palace was caught on camera by onlookers; this clip highlights why a wider strategy is important. One of the reviewers in this video questions the use of Taser in the incident as “unnecessary” and suggests it was “unlawful”.
The bizarre suggestion that Pepper Spray use was a more appropriate tactical alternative in this case is unjustifed. The fact is there are some people who are anti police and clearly do not understand policing, its complexity nor the lawful use of force. Whether these negative views about Taser influence community perceptions of the police is something we ask?
To quote, “Section 3(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1967 allows for the use of “such force as is reasonable in the circumstances” for the prevention of crime, which includes using force to defend against an assailant. What is Reasonable Force? Because the circumstances of each case will inevitably be different, the statute is silent on what constitutes reasonable force, which leaves the decision to the jury to determine based on the evidence.
Thankfully the ACPO lead on Taser, Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman, and Mike Pannett, an author and police spokesperson on behalf of the rank and file view possible initiatives to engage as positive. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the ACPO lead on Taser and Mike Pannett were allowed to speak on these issues with Philip Schofield and set the record straight on this particular incident? Taser is feared by many, some even feel it is a lethal weapon, that it is excessive force and that it could seriously hurt mentally ill people. Interestingly today is the last day for submissions to the Adebowale Commission, an enquiry focusing on policing and mental health. I wonder therefore whether anyone has, to date taken the issue of Taser, mental health and communication strategy to the Commission. The police service must engage openly and honestly about Taser or it will miss this gem of an opportunity. Increasing Taser availability is required but it is a massive change in the perception of this level of Force that communities may not appreciate nor understand fully. On 12th February at 4pm DCC Simon Chesterton will be taking part in a live web chat about Taser. This is a part of ACPO’s overall strategy. If the service does not take the community with it then elements of the community will resist and reinforce negative perceptions of the service as a whole.
Guest Blog by @SirIanBlair
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