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Devon and Cornwall Police Tasers

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2:56pm 22nd July 2014

Pirate FM has learnt that police in Cornwall and Devon are using tasers more than five times a week.

The electroshock devices were deployed 299 times last year.

A report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission found that only six other forces posted higher figures, like Greater Manchester and the Met.

The IPCC said:

'Taser use should be closely analysed and each use robustly justified to ensure the device is being used appropriately and not as a default when other options may be available, according to an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report published today.

The report, which follows an IPCC review of complaints and incidents relating to Taser use from 2004 to 2013, acknowledges that Taser can be a valuable tool in helping police officers manage difficult and challenging situations.

But with more officers now equipped with Tasers and with the number of complaints rising in-line with the increased use, the IPCC recommends that local forces should guard against the possibility that it is being over-used.

For example, the IPCC's analysis of Home Office data shows considerable disparity in Taser use between forces, with some smaller forces having a proportionately much higher rate of Taser use in relation to their size. There is no obvious explanation for this, and the IPCC will further explore this with police forces.'

IPCC Commissioner Cindy Butts said: "The IPCC has always accepted that there are legitimate reasons for using Taser in policing and that it can be a valuable tool in assisting police officers to manage difficult and challenging situations. However, in light of the significant increase in Taser use, it is important to ensure that the device is being used appropriately and not as a default choice where other tactical options, including communication, could be effective. For that reason, it is very important that each individual use can be justified and that forces closely analyse the extent and type of use."

Amnesty International urges that:

1) Tasers should be used in limited circumstances where there is an imminent threat of loss of life or very serious injury (e.g. someone brandishing a knife or other weapon)

2) Tasers should be treated as an alternative to lethal force and only used in genuinely life-threatening situations that can’t be controlled by lesser means

3) Officers carrying Tasers are trained to firearms standards on an on-going basis of continual assessment

4) Roll out must be highly restricted and then only to specially trained officers

Spokeswoman Kate Allen said: "We know about people who have gone into diabetic shock, we know somebody having an epileptic fit was tasered. We know all sorts of situations in which tasers are used and they have had an appalling impact on people. We are talking about a potentially lethal weapon.

"They are 50 thousand volts of electricity going through somebody.

"It should be used by the police only in circumstances where there is imminent threat. What we're increasingly seeing across the country - tasers are being used by the police in a much more routine way and I think we should fear that."

The Police Federation in Devon and Cornwall says it is all relative, because more officers here are trained to use tasers.

Spokesman Nigel Rabbitts said they have helped to cut violence against officers too: "If you look at the national figures for assaults on police officers, within Devon and Cornwall we've had an actual reduction which is against the national trend and we would say that some of that's to do with policing by consent and the public have confidence in the officers but also, we have a high proportion of taser."

2:56pm 22nd July 2014

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