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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Taser stun guns: life-saving deterrent or lethal weapon?

July 11, 2010
Mark Townsend and Owen Bowcott, The Guardian

Human rights groups claim weapon police say they fired on Raoul Moat is responsible for hundreds of deaths in US alone.

Raoul Moat's death seems likely to challenge several aspects of British policing, most obviously the use of the Taser stun gun when a suspect is armed.

Tasers have consistently divided opinion: human rights groups claim they are "potentially lethal" and responsible for hundreds of deaths in the US alone; the Association of Chief Police Officers supports them, as having a significant deterrent effect.

The UK police remain one of the few services in the world that do not regularly carry firearms. Dangerous people can instead be subdued with a bolt from a Taser, designed to make them collapse.

Tasers fire two electric barbs up to 35 feet and deliver a disabling, 50,000-volt shock, which can penetrate clothing up to two inches thick. Their expansion over the past seven years has been impressive. Ministers announced that 10,000 Tasers would be issued to specially trained officers during the summer of 2008.

Yet the police remain acutely sensitive to public doubts. The Independent Police Complaints Commission recently introduced rules making officers forward all complaints about Tasers to the police watchdog.

Few will forget watching the chief constable of North Wales, Richard Brunstrom, screaming "bloody hell" in a 2007 video as he was stung by a Taser. Brunstorm managed 1.5 seconds. "That was long enough, thanks," he said.

Senior officers are keen to maintain that their use is only sanctioned in extreme situations, although new rules do allow Tasers to be used in less serious incidents if officers are facing violence.

Who ordered the weapons to be fired in Moat's case is far from evident. Perhaps the better question is why. A plausible scenario would be that those present thought Moat was about to kill himself. The Tasers could, in fact, have saved Moat's life.

Northumbria police, though, refuse to answer questions about when exactly the Tasers were used or why. A spokesman said: We are not discussing anything to do with Tasers."

A US police expert, Lieutenant Todd Faulkner, said earlier this year that the Taser should never be deployed during "a dynamic, deadly force situation", a description applicable to that facing officers surrounding Moat last Friday.

Last year the manufacturer, Taser International, warned against firing the weapons at anyone's chest area because of "the controversy about whether or not" they might cause harm.

1 comment:

Excited-Delirium blog said...

Chief constable Richard Brunstrom was tasered IN THE BACK for barely ONE SECOND. That's FAKE and (as evidence of safety) highly deceptive. He, and all other Taser fan-boys, should try it across the chest for 30 seconds. Repeat that method and you WILL see some deaths.