The latest Home Office figures show that the use of Tasers by police officers in England and Wales more than doubled between 2009 and 2011.
There are currently 14,700 Taser-trained officers in England and Wales, which equates to around 11 per cent of police officers.
Official figures reveal that the devices were used 7,877 times in 2011, up from 3,328 in 2009. The total police uses of Tasers are shown to have increased year-on-year from 2009 to 2011.
However, the number of non-discharges, where an officer’s Taser does not make contact with a suspect – for example when it is drawn and aimed, which results in a red laser dot to be placed on the suspect – accounted for around three-quarters of situations.
Such non-discharges made up 74 per cent of incidents in 2011, with that figure accounting for 75 per cent in 2010 and 73 per cent in 2009. Back in 2009 some 23 per cent of Taser deployments involved the stun gun actually being fired and this figure dropped to 20 per cent in 2010 before a small rise in 2011 to 21 per cent.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is currently investigating 12 cases of Taser use and supervising police investigations into a further seven cases. Deborah Glass, deputy chair of the IPCC, admits there are some concerns about the increase in Taser use.
She said: “From the review we have carried out of Taser complaints and our own investigations we do have concerns about some of the ways and circumstances in which the Taser is used, bearing in mind that each use must be justified as being necessary and proportionate to the perceived threat.”
Glass cited concerns about the use of Taser in ‘drive stun’ mode, where the stun gun is placed on the body. The Home Office figures showed the use of such tactics grew by one percentage point between 2010 and 2011, accounting for 5 per cent of all uses.
National policing lead for armed police, Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman, said Tasers provide a vital assistance in helping to deter crime and the rise in usage in recent years matched the greater number of Tasers being rolled out across the force.
“The percentage of occasions when the Taser is actually fired has not increased since its introduction in 2003 and I believe this is evidence of the extensive and consistent training which the police in the UK have implemented,” he said.
“Analysis of the figures shows that on average Taser use by these officers is very infrequent. When it is used, on 75 per cent of occasions it is not fired and its mere presence acts as an effective deterrent.”
Steve White, Vice-Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, echoed the words of DCC Chesterman, stating: “Taser presents an extremely effective means of dealing with the many dangerous situations that officers often face.
“Given that the number of Tasers available to officers increased significantly during the period in question, it’s no surprise that its use also went up.”