Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Tasers - the increasing weapon of choice

The brutal Tasering of a disabled man - Shocket Aslam - by police in England last week  has again highlighted the increasing use of this lethal weapon. The Glasgow Defence Campaign reproduces below an article written by a GDC supporter last month:

The ruling class is laying the ground for the normalisation of new forms of weaponry and an increasingly paramilitary-style police force in an anticipation of the social unrest which will inevitably arise as a result of spending cuts and increasing poverty. Scotland Yard publicly warned students that plastic bullets – responsible for the deaths of dozens of civilians and children in the north of Ireland – would be available for use against a peaceful, pre-planned march against student fees in November last year. Beneath the shiny public relations exercise of ‘community policing’, the increasing use of Taser guns is part of this same trend.

Back in October 2010, the Govanhill Defence Campaign highlighted attempts by Strathclyde police to prepare the ground for the introduction of Taser guns in the policing of working class communities in Glasgow. Officers were seen distributing a ‘public perception survey’ to local shoppers on Victoria Road, asking: ‘how does knowing that some local officers could carry a Taser on patrol make you feel?’ Subsequent developments have confirmed the only possible answer: ‘not good!’

Following a recent Freedom Of Information (FOI) request by Channel 4 it has been disclosed that there is an alarming increase in the use of the Taser by various Police Forces across the UK, the average increase being in the range of a 130%. Suffolk Constabulary Taser use has  increased by 800%.

This increase has been more pronounced in areas where non-firearms trained officers are routinely armed with the Taser weapon. There has been controversy surrounding the use of Tasers for sometime due to the weapon’s ability to cause serious injury or even death. The news of the increase coupled with the fact that untrained inexperienced officers are in control of what might be considered a lethal weapon by those who have suffered the consequences, is extremely alarming. 

It further begs the question why a particularly nasty and harmful instrument such as the Taser which is considered to be a prohibited weapon under the Firearms Act 1968 and whose ‘possession is an offence’ carrying a maximum sentence of ‘ten years in prison and an unlimited fine’, appears to be on the increase.

‘In Scotland, Strathclyde Police agreed in February 2010 to arm 30 specially trained police officers using the Taser X26. The pilot would last three months and would be deployed in Glasgow City Centre and Rutherglen.  A fund for up to 10,000 additional Tasers is being made available for individual chief police officers to bid for Tasers based on their own operational requirements’.

No official figures are readily available regarding the use of Tasers in Scotland, although a recent FOI request did give some insight into Central Scotland’s Police position on this :-

According to policy and guidelines issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the ‘Taser can be used only where officers would be facing violence or threats of violence of such severity that they would need to use force to protect the public, themselves, and/or the subject(s)’. What then is the definition of ‘violence of such severity’ considering particularly the 82 year old pensioner Tasered by Police in London in recent months?

On 24 August, ACPO in England and Scotland ruled out an investigation into the use of Tasers despite the deaths of three people in separate incidents in the space of eight days after being shot by Taser guns by police. These tragic killings have, unsurprisingly, been brushed under the carpet by the so-called Independent Police Complaints Commission, which has failed to deliver justice for a single one of the many hundreds of people who have died after contact with police in the past decade.

Like any other weapon which could be used arbitrarily, the consequences can be at the very least violent and severe, at worst lethal, and it is time that a more open, transparent and in-depth account highlighting the circumstances and instances of the use of the Taser should be made publicly and readily available.

A 2007 Report by the United Nations Committee Against Torture stated that: ‘The Committee was worried that the use of Taser X26 weapons, provoking extreme pain, constituted a form of torture’. 

Legalised torture, whatever next…

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