Tasers drawn by Nottinghamshire Police more than 350 times in a year

Police in Nottinghamshire drew their Tasers more than 350 times in a year, figures show – discharging them on nearly 50 occasions.

Wednesday, 1st September 2021, 6:00 pm

In a new report, the Independent Office for Police Conduct has raised concerns around the unnecessary use of the devices by officers, particularly against non-white or vulnerable people and children.

The report from the police watchdog made 17 recommendations, calling for improvements to the national guidance, training, scrutiny and monitoring of Taser use.

The latest Home Office data shows Nottinghamshire Police drew Tasers 388 times in the year to March 2020, though officers only discharged the electric shock weapons on 42 occasions.

Police said the Taser is a powerful deterrent.

Chief Constable Craig Guildford, of the force, said: “Taser is one of vast array of techniques used by police officers to deescalate dangerous situations in order to keep the public and officers safe.

“The statistics clearly demonstrate their effectiveness, showing that in most cases, their mere presence serves as a proportionate deterrent and de-escalator in some very dangerous situations. That’s good for the public and the police.

“We are here to protect the public and our officers alike. Taser plays a key role in how we police on behalf of all our communities and I am a strong supporter of its use.”

Chief Constable Lucy D'Orsi, National Police Chiefs' Council lead for less lethal weapons, said Tasers were critical in protecting both officers and the public facing violent situations.

Chief Constable Craig Guildford, of Nottinghamshire Police.

She acknowledged improvements could be made, but said officers were well scrutinised when it came to using reasonable force, adding: “Policing is not easy and in many violent situations I believe Taser is a viable less lethal option for officers between using a baton and the lethal force of a gun.

“Officers are well trained to use the reasonable force given to them in law to confront the violence or threat of violence they are faced with when they protect the public and themselves.”

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‘Disturbing track record’

The IOPC report warned police risked losing public confidence if concerns around Taser use were not thoroughly addressed.

Michael Lockwood, IOPC director, said forces must be able to justify the circumstances in which Tasers are deployed and must respond to a national disproportionality in use against black people.

Across England and Wales, black people were eight times more likely to be subject to use of Taser than white people in 2019-20, according to the IOPC report.

Where ethnicity was recorded, figures for Nottinghamshire Police show white people were involved in 297 incidents of Taser use over the same period, compared with 47 involving black people.

Oliver Feeley-Sprague, of human rights campaign group Amnesty International, said: “The police have a disturbing track record of disproportionately using Tasers against black people and those in mental distress.

“In some circumstances, Tasers can be effective if used by well-trained officers to prevent loss of life or serious injury but they’re open to misuse and over-use."

A Home Office spokesman said: “Our police must be equipped with the resources, tools and powers they need to keep themselves and the public safe – including Taser.

“Officers pass one of the most comprehensive training programmes in the world before being authorised with a Taser.

“In 86 per cent of cases where a Taser is drawn, it is not discharged, demonstrating its impact as a powerful deterrent that de-escalates dangerous situations.”