August 26th, 2010

Shocking Behaviour

Posted in The Job - General by 200

Police in Nottingham dropped a bit of a bollock this month when an officer accidentally tasered a 14-year-old girl who was standing a few feet away from a man who had just assaulted an officer & was trying to evade arrest.

Police were called to the Stapleford area of Nottingham to reports of males riding mopeds up & down the road.

When officers approached, one of the males became aggressive. A struggle ensued during which an officer was assaulted. The officer discharged his Taser but it missed & hit the girl who was standing behind the offender.

The male was subsequently arrested.

The girl was taken home & examined by a doctor who found she had not suffered any ill effects. Police have apologised to the girl.

To cut to the chase then, is this sufficient reason to deny police the use of Taser? Doubtless certain groups individuals will be using this as yet another example why police should not be trusted with yet another weapon in their arsenal.

Life is a series of risks, police work is no different. I’ve never believed that something should be banned just because the risk of misuse means someone might get hurt or even killed. I think it’s more a question of balancing the potential outcomes & trying to minimise the risks.

If risking the deaths of a certain amount of people to save the lives of many more people is an option open to you then I’d take the risk. But lets be clear, talking about Taser is not talking about life & death, despite what the anti campaigners might say.

Is it worth the risk of Tasering the occasional innocent person in order to protect people who might otherwise be at a far more serious risk? Unquestionably yes, apologise, make reparations, amend training accordingly but don’t ban it because of some errors.

No matter how good the training & equipment, we will always make cock-ups. It’s a question of whether those cock-ups outweigh the good the equipment provides.

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14 comments

  1. Dr Melvin 'Banned from most police blogs' Gray says:

    The two main protagonists overhyping the safety of these dangerous weapons, are the manufacturers and users.

    On the ‘safety’ of this weapon, fifty seven civilian deaths are attributed to its use in the State of Florida alone. The American Union of Civil Liberties and Amnesty International cite individual cases which now total more than four hundred deaths around the world.

    The greater problem is abuse of the weapon and much evidence has been gathered on overuse by police as a compliance device. This incontrovertible evidence rightly condemns taser as an instrument of painful torture. That being so, the case for an outright ban on tasers is overwhelming and the argument that it is “worth the risk of tasering the occasional innocent person in order to protect people who might otherwise be at a far more serious risk” is irrelevant.

    The manufacturer must then be held liable in civil law and meet all compensation claims regardless of alleged guilt or otherwise, on the part of victims.

    August 26th, 2010 at 09:53

  2. DrummerBoy says:

    As a MOP (middle aged, white and male) I firmly believe that the Police must be given effective tools to do their job, and an effective framework of rules in which to operate.
    As far as I know the reason tasers are being used is that the Police are now much more liable for injuries a person being apprehended receives, and the resultant fallout, than ever before; and that tasers are deemed (overall) less harmfull than being pepper sprayed or beaten with a batton.
    For my £0.02 any injury resulting after being given a lawful order to halt, should be firmly on the detainee’s shoulders. Excessive force should be investigated, however the starting premise should be that the individual was given the chance to stop, and any subsequent injury was self inflicted, given the choice made. No one jumping off bridges complains when they get hit by a car!
    Secondly, and more pertinent to this case, there should be a general recognition in soicety that we are human and make human mistakes. Some of these have more serious consequences than others. However, an honest mistake is just that, and not a criminal act.

    August 26th, 2010 at 10:46

  3. boy on a bike says:

    Shit happens. Life isn’t fair. Sorry love, but God wasn’t smiling on your that day. Just be thankful it was a Taser and not a Sig.

    August 26th, 2010 at 11:23

  4. Ted says:

    Tazer deaths in the UK as far as I know = zero.

    Road accidents circa 3000 per annum.

    Shall we ban the car then Dr M?

    It is unforunate when bystanders get tazered but as the girl said herself it’s not the end of the world.

    “I was a little bit behind the man. The policeman shot the Taser and hit me. The electric shot felt like bad cramp.

    “I couldn’t move. I was a bit wobbly on my feet so my sister put her arm around me.”

    August 26th, 2010 at 12:36

  5. Jimbox says:

    I think it comes down to considering the alternatives – if the position of the girl was as reported then arguably she’d have suffered from exposure to incapacitant spray which I would guess would have been deployed if tazer wasn’t an option. Policing is inherently dangerous. If people choose to come over and rubber neck while police officer do their job there is always a potential for collateral damage.

    As for tazer being deadly – not one death attributed to it in the UK. In fact I’m not even been any cases where the coroner has mentioned it as a contributory factor.

    August 26th, 2010 at 13:12

  6. Fee says:

    Given that we, as a society, are apparently completely averse to any risk whatsoever, I’m surprised that police officers were ever given Tasers in the first place. The young girl concerned seems to have been absolutely fine, and one incident cannot be allowed to remove one of the few tools our police have at their disposal.

    File this one under “some days you’re the pigeon, some days you’re the statue”. That day, she was the statue. She’ll rubber-neck from a greater distance next time the police are trying to apprehend someone.

    August 26th, 2010 at 13:20

  7. Civ_In_The_City says:

    I just found a report that said that in 1998 in the U.K. 3,946 people died from accidents in their own home, 400 of them were under 25.

    Not sure how this affects the Taser argument but there it is anyway.

    The trouble with our risk-averse ‘elf and safety society is that it does not favors whatsoever to a whole generation of youngsters who now don`t have the skills to recognise danger when it`s in front of them.

    Same problem with having too many speed limit signs, drivers drive to the signs, motorists drive to the road conditions. A big difference.

    Round my way a driver was tasered in the nuts while stationary. Ironically, if it was a bolt of lighting instead of a Taser he`d have been alright.

    August 26th, 2010 at 20:35

  8. R/T says:

    OMG – Melv, do you truly believe that there’s been 57 deaths in FLA from Tazer?

    August 26th, 2010 at 21:10

  9. Ambulance Amateur says:

    Can’t fault Notts Police in their intent, just in their aim! (Actually, the Nottingham area used to have someone some years ago who was a terrific marksman. Trouble was, the then law enforcement authorities took a dislike to him. If they’d learned from him instead, this incident may not have happened.)

    I work/worked as a Safety professional. It is rare – unkown, in fact – for me to “ban” anything other than the obvious. (Driving on footways, carrying spears or unsheathed swords in congested areas etc.)

    Some H&S people have no judgement. Using a naked flame is seen as a complete no-no, even if it is essential to the process. The same applies to sharp things. This is not real H&S.

    Real H&S means looking out for the most dangerous things in a workplace and finding ways to make them safer. Would I ban a fitter from using his lathe just in case he got some swarf in his eye? Of course not; I’d just ensure he wore safety specs.

    Use of a Taser is a (usually) non-lethal way of preventing a violent person becoming more violent. In some cases, the alternative would be a gun. In most other cases, the alternative would be a piece of hard wood swung at the collar bone. Unfortunately, some people move just before impact and get it on the head. The Taser would be a lot safer in these circumstances.

    August 26th, 2010 at 23:05

  10. Baz says:

    Melvin,

    If you speak to the opposition (Taser Company), they will state that no persons have been killed from taser, and ultimately they are right. Taser does not kill people, in cases where people die where Taser has been used, Taser is a contributing factor, but the cause of death tends to be things like heart attacks.

    For example one happened in our area recently, a drug crazed guy, with numerous health problems, threatened cops with a knife, lo and behold he was tasered, and he died. It was not the Taser that killed him, but a combination of the stress on his heart from the situation, and fighting with cops, his poor health, the drugs, and the Taser which sent him over the edge. Unfortunately 90% of the people we arrest where Taser is used are drugged up, violent, and lets face it are not predisposed to looking after their bodies, so it is not so much the taser as a set of circumstances which cause the death.

    For your information everyone in my force who gets trained in taser is tasered during their training, that’s over 10,000 cops, no one has died. The difference is, largely healthy cops, who are not on drugs, heavily drunk, and violent at the time when they take the hit.

    So where organizations like Amnesty International will state that every death where a taser has been involved is as a result of the taser, is not really correct, this is a very simplistic statement to serve their own agenda, its more complicated than that, though I would certainly agree taser is a contributing factor to those deaths.

    August 27th, 2010 at 01:12

  11. Oi says:

    No worries Mel – Just for you, we’ll remove the taser from use, but obviouly we need something to take its place.
    A Glock 17 would be my pick.

    August 27th, 2010 at 08:34

  12. fastbecomingcynical says:

    All of the Police methods of restraint and control rely on pain compliance (i.e. do what your told or i will twist your arm / hit you with my metal stick) Even pepper spray and CS gas work primarily on pain compliance despite them generally taking away the other persons sight.
    Taser on the other hand works on Neuro Muscular Incapacitation. The muscles between where the Taser probes hit constrict and go into spasm. Yes i admit this is painful but if the body goes into spasm between the torso and the ankle it makes it impossible to fight and is therefore safer to restrain and arrest the subject.
    I know i have been Pepper Sprayed numerous times and Taser’d once. If given the choice i’d be Taser’d every day rather than be Pepper Sprayed once a week.
    Taser is a safe and effective piece of equipment that should be rolled out to every officer…….and no i dont work for Taser International!

    August 27th, 2010 at 11:28

  13. Civ_In_The_City says:

    Baz and fastbecomingcynical make very good and revealing points. I think it`s commendable that before officers are allowed to deploy a Taser they must first have gone through the experience of being Tasered themselves. Can`t ask for more than that. It gives those officers the first-hand knowledge that need when deciding how to subdue a willing client.

    August 27th, 2010 at 19:20

  14. joe says:

    The thread of the above comments (apart from MTG) seems to be tasers are a legitimate part of the police response and probably less harmful than many of the alternatives; you only get tasered if you are “asking for it”; in this life mistakes happen and we can’t make the world totally risk free – can’t disagree with that as a common sense view.

    I’d go further. Every officer should be equipped with a taser and a firearm. In the world we now live in, as the esteemed Gadget has pointed out, an officer is otherwise not in a position to deal with the full range of potential threats to themselves and to properly protect the general public. Properly applied H&S considerations should actually dictate that this is the case! And yes there will be accidents but let’s get it in perspective. We have some of the tightest gun controls in the world but they haven’t stopped criminal use of firearms and on a pragmatic assessment of lives lost you’d ban cars before you banned guns.

    However given the SMT and politician’s obsession with image over substance what’s the chances of a pragmatic decision on providing the guys at the sharp end with the tools for the job

    August 27th, 2010 at 23:02

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