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Norfolk Police Federation

"Taser is an effective bit of equipment that keeps police officers and our communities safe"

26 August 2021

Taser is an effective bit of equipment that keeps police officers and our communities safe.

Andy Symonds, Norfolk Police Federation Chairman, has responded to a critical report from the Independent Office for Police Conduct where the watchdog raised concerns with Taser guidance, training and scrutiny.

Andy said: “In my view this report is flawed in many respects and this is disappointing as we have to be able to have some form of confidence in the body charged with upholding standards of professional behaviour within policing.

“I believe the IOPC need to place themselves in special measures after this report and take part in some reflective practice so that future reports they produce on whatever subject have good strong and robust data which stands scrutiny.

“Who on earth thought it would be a good idea to just review 101 Taser deployments over a 5 year period when as a police service we used the Taser nearly 95,000 times?

“But it’s important to understand what a ‘use’ means as far as the figures are concerned. Every time an officer takes a Taser from its holster, the red dot is aimed, the device is arced or indeed fired then this is classed as a use. In reality, in 2018/19 Taser was ‘used’ 23,500 times, it was actually fired on only 2,500 occasions. That means 85% of the time the officer did not feel the need to fire the device.

“This demonstrates an incredible level of restraint and professionalism from my colleagues who have to make split second decisions on what level of force to use. Police officers expect scrutiny particularly when they ‘use’ Taser and this happens.

“It is my view that the police service in England and Wales is the most scrutinised in the world and officers accept this therefore the communities we serve can be confident that officers are investigated when complaints or concerns are raised with their use of Taser. I accept that we can always improve and evolve our training we do this all the time in policing.

“But this evolution has to take into account that my colleagues work in fast paced dynamic situations with people that are violent and aggressive towards them and members of the public.

“We’ve seen the continual rise on assaults upon my colleagues. They work single crewed often and in rural parts of Norfolk which means back-up can be many miles away. Taser is an effective bit of equipment that keeps my colleagues and our communities safe.”

The National Police Federation of England and Wales dismissed the review as “statistically insignificant”.

It stated: “This report makes recommendations on 101 IOPC investigations into Taser use in a five-year timescale. However, there were almost 100,000 recorded Taser usages in this period, so it is statistically insignificant.”

Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi, speaking on behalf of The National Police Chiefs Council, said: “Unfortunately, this report by the IOPC is vague, lacks detail, does not have a substantive evidence base and regrettably ignores extensive pieces of work that are already well underway and, indeed, other areas where improvement could be made.

“I advised the IOPC of my concerns and am extremely disappointed that it did not engage with policing, attend a Taser training course or consult the national independent experts who we work with whilst undertaking its initial research.

“Only 101 Taser uses over a five year period were reviewed and these were all ones that had been investigated by the IOPC. It is concerning that this only represents 0.1 per cent of all Taser uses in the same period, which totals 94,045.”

Andy concluded: “I’m pleased to see the NPCC come out so strongly in regards to the IOPC Taser report. Having read it myself I hold the same views and concerns that the NPCC highlight.”