Sharp rise in police Taser use

Friday, 10 July 2015

Police use of Tasers in England and Wales has risen by half over the last five years according to Home Office figures released yesterday. In total Tasers were used 10,062 times in 2014, compared to 6,649 times in 2010.

Police used the most powerful 'fire' setting, which sends out an electric shock to incapacitate the victim, 1,724 times in 2014. The 'stun' setting, which sends out painful shocks but doesn't incapacitate to the extent of the 'fire' setting, was used 256 times in the same year. 

The majority of Taser use in 2014 involved victims being 'red-dotted', where a laser red dot from the Taser is aimed at the victim. Tasers being drawn and fired both made up around a fifth of overall use. 

The statistics were released days after an inquest verdict linked their use with the death of 23 year-old Jordan Begley, reported in The Guardian. The ruling, believed to be the first time an inquest has found that a Taser contributed to a death, prompted an independent inquiry into Taser use by police in England and Wales.

In February 2015 the Police Federation voted in favour of offering Tasers to all frontline officers. Our Deputy-Director Will McMahon, commenting on the expansion in the use of Tasers to The Independent, said:

'We have survived as a society without the use of Tasers. I can see no justification for them in a country that has unarmed police.'

On 15 July we're holding an event, 'Shock and law: debating the use of Tasers', where we will debate whether all frontline police officers should be armed with the weapons. We will discuss the existing evidence about the impact of the use of Tasers in criminal justice practice and debate the implications. 

Speakers include:

  • Louise King, Children's Rights Alliance for England
  • Neal Corney, Omega Research Foundation
  • Janet Hills, Chair, Metropolitan Black Police Association