Police need to improve their use of Taser stun guns to retain community support despite the “valuable role” the weapon plays in protecting officers and the public in dangerous situations, a watchdog has said.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct said better “national guidance, training and scrutiny of Taser use” was needed to address concerns including the use of Tasers on occasions in a “potentially unsafe situation” and missed opportunities to “de-escalate” instead of firing.
In a report, the watchdog also expressed concern about the extent of the use of Tasers on children, with 134 such incidents in a year, and on “vulnerable people with mental health or drug and alcohol issues”.
It added that forces also needed to give a “clear and transparent” explanation of the disproportionate use of Taser on black and other ethnic minority people.
It warned that unless action was taken the police use of Taser risks “losing its legitimacy in the eyes of the public”.
Michael Lockwood, the watchdog’s director general, said: “Police must be able to justify the circumstances in which Taser is deployed, particularly when children and vulnerable people are involved.”
The report analysed 101 cases in which Tasers were used. In 14 of those the watchdog concluded that the weapon was deployed in a potentially unsafe situation.
It also discloses that there were eight cases where a Taser was fired for 20 seconds and expresses concern that prolonged discharges often tend to be against people with mental health problems.