There has been a lot of hysteria recently about TASER.
As usual, I’m not sure whether those who are against TASER are sinister anti-authority types who simply do not want us to be able to protect ourselves and the public, people whose experience of conflict is a row over who is next at the shredder or just a selected reportage in the media.
As usual, what I do know is the reality of TASER use on the frontline.
In an extraordinary break with tradition, the Chief Constable here at Ruralshire Constabulary made an entirely sensible decision and issued TASER to all frontline patrol teams. This was after some initial silliness about who would have it, but our Fed managed to intervene and the right decision was made. We have had TASER on my team for ages. I usually put out at least three double-crewed TASER equipped vehicles on a shift.
My experience of TASER being issued to patrol officers is therefore based upon the reality of the day-to-day situation rather than any ideological leanings, ‘things I have read in the papers’ or the watching of too many You Tube clips from America.
Here are three real incidents where we have deployed TASER as part of our routine patrol duties.
1. The usual call to a ‘male with a samurai sword’ running about in Ruraltown High Street threatening to kill passing members of the public, stripped to the waist (why are they always stripped to the waist?) high on something and very, very violent. TASER crew arrives within 4 minutes, draws TASER, red-dots the man and orders him to drop the sword.
In a miracle of instant recovery, all the man’s mental health and drug issues disappear and he drops the sword. A completely compliant arrest follows with no injuries to anyone.
Previously this would have required shields, large batons, a firearms unit and a long delay during which he could have killed anyone he wanted, including the first police officers on the scene.
2. A disqualified driver, known for violence against police officers, bailed out of a stolen vehicle after a pursuit. Armed with a 2 ft long iron bar in one hand and a knife in the other, he became cornered by the two policemen from the pursuing vehicle. Red-faced, drunk, very angry and screaming death threats, a stand-off ensued which without TASER would have taken hours to resolve (remember, the public don’t like it when we pile mob-handed onto one man). The TASER crew arrived within a few seconds and red-dotted him in the chest.
Another miracle occurred. Right in front of the police officers eyes, a complete change in character. Weapons dropped, hands behind the back and a compliant arrest.
3. My own patrol officers end a siege without calling for tactical response units and bringing the whole town to a halt for hours by using TASER on a male who is clearly intent on cutting his own throat, while at the same time threatening t0 stab any police officer or paramedic who approaches him. All this in the isle of a busy local supermarket.
In this case, TASER was fired at the man. He was immediately incapacitated and arrested without any injury to anyone. In the past, this could have been another Kingsbury or it could have taken hours and hours of negotiation, maybe even a fatal shooting by police.
As you can see, I struggle to see any argument at all against the issue and use of this excellent piece of equipment.
The law-abiding public are either unaware that we have it or interested in talking to us all about it. I have never met anyone who is afraid of us having it, and many people comment that they feel safer now they know we can intervene without having to wait for specialist units to come from the other side of the county.
Refusing to let us have TASER in case we shoot the wrong person is like refusing to let us have cars in case we run someone over, boots in case we kick someone in the head or a first aid kit in case we give the wrong treatment. On my team we take the deployment of TASER very seriously. I haven’t even heard the team joke about it.
When we get our handguns, and we will get them folks, we will treat them with the same reverence.