Police defend high use of Taser device

Police news.
Police news.

Lincolnshire Police has responded to figures in an annual report in which it is highlighted as the third highest user of Taser devices in England and Wales.

Officers used the stun guns 259 times in 2013.

Police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission issued the figures in its annual report and highlighted the high use of the devices by smaller forces like Lincolnshire compared to neighbouring forces.

However Lincolnshire’s assistant chief constable, Lee Freeman, said 80 per cent of the time Tasers were not actually fired when drawn.

“In simple terms the use of Taser is defined in three ways, stage one drawing it from its holster, stage two ‘red dotting’ the alleged offender (this involves pointing the Taser at an offender whereby a red dot appears on their body) and stage three discharging the Taser.

“The force dealt with more than 180,000 incidents in 2013. The IPCC report shows that amongst all those incidents Lincolnshire Police ‘used’ Taser 259 times that year, but it was actually fired only 47 times.” He explained that 23 per cent of Lincolnshire officers are trained to use Taser compared to an average of 8 per cent of police officers across the East Midlands area.

Given the large rural area policed by the force, and the time 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, Mr Freeman said they took the decision to train local area response teams, enabling them to get to violent incidents far quicker and be better equipped to deal with a wider range of potential problems when they arrive.

He said: “This decision was taken with the safety of the public and our officers and staff as our first priority. The Taser is a less lethal option than conventional firearms which potentially might have to be used to subdue an offender with a knife, as an example, if Taser was not available.”

Mr Freeman said the deployments of officers with conventional firearms to incidents across the county has reduced by about 46 per cent from 126 in 2011 (when the current level of authorised Taser officers were fully trained) down to 74 in 2013.

Since 2010-2011 assaults on police officers has reduced by approximately 25 per cent.

“This may or may not be due to the use of Taser but we believe that this is likely to have at least contributed to the reduction,” he added.