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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Britain: Police watchdog to probe Taser arrest video

June 16, 2009
Associated Free Press

LONDON (AFP) — A YouTube video of a man being shot twice with a Taser gun as he rolls on the floor in agony has prompted a police watchdog to launch an inquiry, it said Tuesday.

The video, taken on a mobile phone, has raised fresh questions about Tasers, or stun guns, which can only be used in Britain under strict guidelines.

The footage initially shows two policemen trying to arrest the man, who had just come out of a nightclub and is lying in the road in Nottingham.

When they fail to bring him under control, an officer holding the Taser orders his colleague to stand back and then fires the gun, consisting of two darts on the end of wires containing a 50,000-volt shock.

One of the policemen also appears to punch the man in the head before two more officers try to restrain him, as a crowd of about 40 people gathers to watch the incident.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it would hold an inquiry into the case.

"Footage of this incident, which many people will now have seen, is of sufficient concern to merit a fully independent investigation," said IPCC commissioner Amerdeep Somal.

"We would urge anyone who was present and witnessed this incident at any stage, from outside the nightclub to where the man was restrained, to tell us what they saw."

Nottinghamshire Police said officers were trying to arrest the 40-year-old man after they were called out by door staff at a nightclub.

The man assaulted a police officer, who needed hospital treatment, before the video started, police said.

Guidelines from the Association of Chief Police Officers say Tasers must not be used indiscriminately.

Nottinghamshire's Assistant Chief Constable Peter Davies said the video had been referred to the IPCC "for an objective investigation."

A spokeswoman for Amnesty International UK said the video appeared to show "a clear breach of the way in which Tasers should be used" and urged the IPCC to carry out a full investigation into the incident.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights group Liberty, said the pictures gave "cause for serious concern."

"Tasers are supposed to be a safer last resort than firearms but there was always the danger they would become too easy to use routinely," she said.

The British government decided last year to extend the use of Tasers after a trial in 10 police forces. The guns are widely used by police in the United States.

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