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 IPCCâ€™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.â€
The report also raises concerns about the use of Taser:
IPCC investigations have examined Taser use on people who are in police custody. The IPCC believes this is only justifiable in exceptional circumstances, taking into account the controlled nature of the custody environment.
In relation to the use of Taser on young people or those with mental disorders, the IPCC considers that all decisions on the use of Taser should take into account the specific vulnerabilities of an individual and these considerations should be recorded in officersâ€™ justifications.
The IPCC has previously raised concerns about the use of the device in drive-stun mode. Though this is only a minority of uses, it is still a major concern.
IPCC Commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone said:
“The IPCC has major concerns about the use of Tasers in drive-stun mode, where the Taser is applied directly to the body without a cartridge rather than fired from a distance. When used in this way it is purely a means of pain compliance. Yet in several of the cases we reviewed, where it was used for the purpose of gaining compliance, it had the opposite effect, stimulating further resistance.â€
IPCC recommendations in todayâ€™s report include:
Todayâ€™s report is only part of the IPCCâ€™s work in relation to Taser use.
A Learning the Lessons bulletin also was published by the IPCC today. The bulletin is separate to the IPCCâ€™s report on Taser and produced in conjunction with policing bodies, setting out case studies and learning from individual investigations.
In addition, there are a number of significant IPCC ongoing investigations relating to Taser use which will inform our work and recommendations. The IPCC is also carrying out a wider review of all types of police use of force, in which use of Taser will also be examined.