The value of Taser

The value of Taser

Anything that can do everything expected of a conventional firearm, yet leaves no-one dead or injured, is going to be a prized piece of equipment. The Taser is just that.

So there is mystification and real concern over the Home Office's refusal to allow its deployment to anyone other than specialist officers.
The TSG is to get the weapon but, with that, the Met will have used up its specialisations, leaving glaring gaps in Taser coverage.

Especially exposed, of course, are the outer boroughs, where the TSG ventures infrequently and which will take time - too much time - for them to reach when Tasers are needed.

The Federation is calling for a fast-response Taser capability throughout the Met and, to this end, believes that, at the very least, all area cars should be equipped with the weapon.

Whitehall's intransigence on this issue is difficult to fathom. Experience in the Met - and, indeed, around the world - shows that the Taser is devastatingly effective, easy to use and safe.

The arguments for ensuring that it has much wider deployment are formidable. Not least among them is the question of public re-assurance. For the ordinary citizen there can be nothing worse than seeing something threatening happening - such as a six-foot, 20 stone man running amok with a machete - which the police are apparently unable to speedily deal with.
And delay is the friend of criminals, who can use the minutes at their disposal to plan their next moves, which may include acquiring another weapon, or a better one.

Even apparently mundane incidents can, of course, suddenly escalate. In domestic arguments, for example, it is not unknown for the emotional temperature to suddenly reach a point where one partner goes for a weapon. Again, the presence of a Taser may dissuade them.

It's possible that the Home Office is listening to the voices of those oppose the Taser, such as Amnesty and, in the United States, of the American Civil Liberties Union, which maintain that the weapon is inhumane and dangerous. If so, it is misguided.

In America, a large insurer of police called the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust - which has every reason to dissuade its clients from doing anything that could result in claims against them - sought objective facts about Taser use and published a report on its findings. It assessed field reports from a wide range of police departments and sheriff's offices.

Among them was a study from the Columbus (Ohio) Police Department which noted that, following the introduction of Tasers, complaints of excessive force dropped by 25 per cent, injuries to suspects dropped by more than 24 per cent and injuries to officers fell by more than 23 per cent.

In Cincinnati, injuries to suspects dropped by 40 per cent and those to officers by 70 per cent.

The Canadian Police Research Centre produced a report on Taser safety which found no ?definitive research or evidence? that Taser use had caused death.

The League of Minnestota Cities' report accepts that no device will be 100 per cent safe but says that the Taser poses a negligible risk to healthy individuals.
It points out that some suspects may already be in a ?medical danger zone? before police arrive - influences such as cocaine, methamphetamine or extreme mental states such as excited delirium ( see pages two and three of this issue of Metline) could provoke a heart attack regardless of police intervention.

The field studies from the United States also point to one huge advantage the Taser presents - an advantage that has also been keenly observed in London by CO19 officers. The weapon can subdue a suspect without even being used.
One of its features is a laser beam which, when the weapon is aimed, projects a small red dot of light on to the target. One of the two barbs will land on this laser spot.

Sometimes, anxiety seizes a suspect when they see the laser spot glowing on them and they cease resistance immediately.

And the Taser can intimidate suspects in another way. The weapon's barbs are contained, prior to firing, in a cartridge which clips on to the Taser's business end. They are ?fired' by gas pressure and the electric current is transmitted from the weapon to the barbs along thin, insulated wires.
If no cartridge is fitted and the trigger is pulled, the electricity will arc noisily across the barrel's two terminals like a mini thunderstorm. The effect can be very unnerving on some people.

In an emergency, the weapon can actually be used in this mode by pressing it against the target's body. This is known as ?drive stunning' and produces an extremely unpleasant sensation in the person to whom it is applied, although it will not necessarily incapacitate them completely in the way the barbs do.
Often, the threat of the procedure will produce compliance.

And in some cases, the mere sight of the Taser is sufficient to quell opposition.
The wider deployment of Tasers has been objected to on the grounds of the additional training costs which would be incurred. But officers who have already received training insist that the weapon is relatively easy to master and instruction in its use could be incorporated into general training days.
The Taser is not the first piece of kit to provoke unjustified fears. There was considerable resistance to the introduction of batons and CS spray, neither of which these days raises an eyebrow.

Of course, the Taser is not a universal panacea, any more than batons or spray. When a criminal has a gun and is threatening to shoot, the response must be a conventional firearm - the spasm caused by a Taser hit could cause the gunman's finger to squeeze the trigger.

But the Met Fed is convinced that its wider deployment will enhance officer safety, public safety and even the safety of suspects.

It will also reduce the pressure on those specialist units which have the weapon and who too often have to fight distance, traffic and clock to help their unarmed colleagues.