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West Midlands Police Federation

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Federation backing for Taser

21 January 2019

The findings of a study carried out into the use of Taser by a top university, and a Sky News report on Taser figures, have both been criticised by Federation officials.

The University of Cambridge worked with City of London Police on a study which the university claimed ‘while rarely deployed, just the presence of electroshock devices led to greater overall hostility in police-public interactions’.

And, just days after the study was published, Sky News issued a report using Taser figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request to all forces in England and Wales. It showed a 77-year-old, a 13-year-old and at least 37 dogs were Tasered between January 2016 and November 2018.

However, both reports have been criticised by Federation officials.

Rich Cooke, chair of West Midlands Police Federation, has previously spoken out in favour of Taser and called on all ‘front-line officers to be armed with Taser as a minimum’.

In response to the university study, Ché Donald, vice-chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “This study recorded less than 6,000 incidents over a 12-month period and when you consider other forces deal with several thousand incidents on a daily basis you start to see where issues could arise.

“It must also be recognised that officers who carry Taser – specifically because they do have this tactical option - are allocated and attend more incidents where there is an increased threat of harm or violence. Ergo they are naturally involved in more of these types of incident.”

The study covered the period from June 2016 and June 2017. It states that of the 5,981 instances recorded a Taser was drawn on nine and fired on just two occasions.

The researchers state that during the study there were six assaults on police officers carrying Taser as opposed to three from the unarmed control group.

They claim this supports the so-called ‘weapons effect’ which states that people can escalate their own level of aggression in response to the sight of a weapon.

Commenting on the Sky News story, national Federation chair John Apter, said: “Let me put this into some context here – we have children killing children with knives on our streets. We need our officers to have access to Taser, a crucial piece of protective equipment, so that they can protect themselves from such violence and prevent further harm to the public.

“And my argument here is, what is the alternative? Firearms? “There is absolutely no doubt that Taser has saved lives and research shows that the police do have support from the public.”

Independent research carried out by Ipsos shows that the police do have the public’s support in using the vital piece of protective equipment – with 89 per cent of the public asked said forces should be allowed to train and equip officers if the use of Taser is automatically recorded by body-worn video and four out of five people said it would make no difference to their decision, or they would be more likely, to approach an officer for assistance if they were carrying a Taser.

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