Police use of tasers against under-18s attracted widespread media coverage today (Feb 25) following the release of national statistics.
The headline figure shows tasers were drawn on around 400 juveniles nationally in 2013, including 52 in the West Midlands, whilst regional media has reported that children as young as 13 in the West Midlands have had tasers pointed at them.
On the face of it these figures can appear shocking but itâ€™s important to understand them in context.
The most up-to-date figures (for 2014) shows that 46 under-18s in the West Midlands were subject of a taser â€˜deploymentâ€™ âˆ’ but a taser was fired on just eight occasions, the youngest being a 14-year-old lad armed with a hammer.
In the vast majority of cases âˆ’ around 75 per cent âˆ’ tasers are drawn from their holster as a deterrent and not actually fired.
That was the case on three occasions in the West Midlands last year when officers came up against 13-year-olds reportedly acting violently.
They included a 999 call-out in Wolverhampton where a boy was threatening to stab people with a knife, whilst officers produced tasers against another 13-year-old in Sandwell last October after heâ€™d thrown a knife at his grandmother and attacked her with a metal crutch.
Chief Superintendent Stuart Johnson, Head of Operations, said: “Tasers are not drawn lightly by officers: they are used where there is a risk of violence and provide an additional option to resolve situations that can arise from all sections of the public, including under-18s.
“Our officers have undergone detailed training, including scenario-based events to test judgement, accuracy and the procedural and legislative side of the equipmentâ€™s use. The training has been developed by an experienced group of taser instructors and practitioners and is subject to regular updates and review.
“In many cases, taser has helped resolved incidents without injury; simply drawing or aiming the taser is often enough of a deterrent. Taser use is recorded every time itâ€™s removed from its holster but our figures show that in three-quarters of cases theyâ€™re not actually fired.
“All taser deployments are subject of a thorough debrief by a supervising officer to ensure it was appropriate.”