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Wiltshire Police Federation

Blog: Taser - a ‘use’ is not always what you think!

21 December 2019


As Taser makes the news, PFEW National Chair John Apter champions the wider roll out of the life-saving device

Taser has been under the media spotlight in more recent years and there are some ongoing high-profile active court cases at the moment where Taser comes into the picture. Last week Home Office figures also revealed the ‘use’ of the device is at a record high.

The figures released recently do show an increase in the use of Taser. This is not surprising. Firstly there are far more officers trained and authorised to carry Taser and secondly, let’s not ignore the fact that we live in an increasingly more violent society where assaults on police officers are increasing year on year. 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, of the 23,500 incidents over the past 12 months where a Taser was ‘used’, 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 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.

Taser will probably always be targeted in the news or by various campaign groups one way or another. But my stance will always remain the same and I will continue to champion its wider roll out and support our members who want to carry it.

Taser has proven itself time and time again, it’s saved lives and it’s prevented a higher level of force having to be used. I have been a strong advocate of a wider roll out of Taser and have also lobbied for the Government to centrally fund this equipment. The Government have listened and acted, the Home Secretary recently announced £10m of extra funding for Taser to be provided to more officers. This is good news, but I want to see more investment in this and officer safety in general. 

Policing is tough, more of my colleagues are being assaulted so it’s essential that they are given the best training, the best equipment and the support they need to do their job. Having access to Taser is part of that. 

I accept that any use of force must be subject to scrutiny, policing in the UK is the most scrutinised and the most accountable in the world, but there also needs to be an understanding of the reality we face on a daily basis. Many of those who criticise my colleagues who use any level of force do so from the comfort of their armchair or with the benefit of hindsight. They have no grasp of reality, they generally offer no alternative other than to have a chat with a violent offender, to talk them down from their violent attack. I’m afraid that doesn’t work in the real world. We have to deal with reality and sometimes that reality is not pretty! 

Use of Taser in the county

BBC Wiltshire (radio), 20/12/2019

Tasers were deployed by police more than 23,000 times last year, its the highest number ever recorded. Wiltshire police says it will use them if needed as they prepare for a busy night tonight with Christmas party goers.

Chief Constable Kier Pritchard: “when we've done the National survey a significant proportion of the police Federation staff have said we would like our colleagues to be armed with a Taser and the majority of people would like to have one. I'm rolling out all the time, I’m increasing the levels, we are already one of the highest level of Taser forces in the country and our recruitment plan over the next 12 months will see that growing and growing.”