Police chief defends Taser use

Police reliance on Tasers has been criticised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Police reliance on Tasers has been criticised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
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Lincolnshire Police is defending its use of Tasers after a report revealed the county force resorts to the weapon more often than any other force in the East Midlands.

Last year Lincolnshire Police used Tasers 259 times – making it top out of five East Midlands police forces and more than double that of second in the league Nottinghamshire on 119.

Tasers hold up to 50,000 volts of electricity and can stun offenders into submission during violent or dangerous conflicts.

Figures newly-published by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) count the number times Tasers have been drawn.

Lincolnshire Police say they were actually fired at 47 of the 259 county incidents and “the very presence of a Taser was enough to subdue a violent offender on more than four out of five of the occasions it was required”.

The IPCC questions why some smaller forces are more likely to use Tasers and voiced concerns such as why they are being used at point-blank range, known as ‘drive stun mode’ – when officers are no longer trained to use them that way – and their use against people in custody.

IPCC Commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone warned: “There is a risk, given the increase in Taser use, that police officers could become increasingly reliant on using force to gain compliance.”

Lincolnshire’s Assistant Chief Constable Lee Freeman says the main reason for the “apparent high use” of the Taser in Lincolnshire is that 23 per cent of the county’s officers are trained to use them compared to just eight per cent in other East Midlands forces.

He says: “Given the large rural area policed by the force, and the times and distances required for Lincolnshire officers to travel to the scenes of violent incidents, sometimes involving the threat of the use of conventional firearms, knives or other weapons, we took the decision to train local area response teams.

“This enables us to get to violent incidents far quicker and be better equipped to deal with a wider range of potential problems when we arrive. This decision was taken with the safety of the public and our officers and staff as our first priority.”

Lincolnshire Police took delivery of 300 Tasers in 2009.

ACC Freeman says use of Tasers has seen a 46 per cent drop in Lincolnshire incidents where firearms officers are deployed – they fell from 126 in 2011 to 74 in 2013.

He also believes the weapon has “at least contributed” to a 25 per cent cut in assaults on police since 2010-2011.