Yesterday I read a blog by Sophie Khan. The blog is about Taser, its dangers and the issuing of it to police officers and is on the Solicitors Journal website. You can read the blog here. I later tweeted about it.
Unfortunately the article gets off to a very poor start by taking a pot shot at the new Commissioner for the Metropolitan police and trivialises the good work he is no doubt trying to commence in this force that is without doubt carrying a few problems at the moment. How the main topic of the post can be lumped in with TV licences and uninsured drivers is puerile and unnecessary. But I read on and the final part of this sentence relates to the proposal to increase deployment of Taser on the streets of London. She states;
This backdoor militarisation of our unarmed police force, if implemented, would end centuries of traditional ‘policing by consent’ and propel us into a dangerous world of ‘policing by compliance’ where those arrested will be routinely subjected to 50,000 volts of electric shock.
I find this a very alarmist and un-evidenced swipe at the professionalism of the (136,000) police officers in this country. (Note the reduction from 140,000). I may be wrong but “backdoor” is a term that is used when something is slipped in unnoticed. The dictionary describes the adjective as;
secret; furtive; illicit; indirect.
Mr Hogan-Howe has clearly been quite open about his thoughts and would not appear to be slipping this decision past an unsuspecting public. If Mr Hogan-Howe were engaging Ms Khan in a debate at the front door about Taser whilst slipping full-blown firearms to every officer in London by the backdoor… then that would meet this statement. It has to be said that this is simply not the case and any indication this is underhand and secret is folly.
The piece then covers the statement made by Mr Hogan-Howe following the stabbing of officers in Harrow. She goes on to state this comment is made in “isolation” of the current statistics that show a rise of 130% in the use of taser across all forces. In order to show an increase in usage by a percentage she needs to have a starting point to base that calculation on. This point is not stated and so is this a rise since Taser was first introduced or from the end of last month? She does not show the source for this figure so it’s somewhat difficult to prove its accuracy and rely upon it in any way. Notwithstanding, the quote of such a figure is again not really surprising. Many years ago police walked everywhere. There were police boxes and we used whistles and when it was an emergency we ran.
We then progressed to pedal cycles and ultimately patrol cars. I wonder if on the routine use of police cars there was a solicitor somewhere waving their arms about shouting that deaths by police drivers had gone up 200% and we shouldn’t be allowed to have access to them. Why would this not be a surprise? My force has gone from a mere handful of trained officers to quite a number who are fully qualified. I understand the aim is to have 2 officers on each team that are able to be deployed. It therefore stands to reason that the use of the equipment is going to rise. Does this mean it is being used unlawfully and with vindictiveness toward passive, innocent members of the public. Of course it doesn’t and any suggestion as Ms Khan states;
where those arrested will be routinely subjected to 50,000 volts of electric shock.
is clearly nonsense. She goes on to quote the ACPO guidance which all makes sense until the suggestion that officers would be exposing themselves to prosecution for torture. How scary is that! It’s a wonder anybody would ever join the police if they thought this was likely to happen. Sadly Ms Khan seems to forget the simple and long-standing basis of s3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967. This is enshrined in UK policing and means that every single individual officer has to be able to justify the force they use and be able to prove that it was reasonable. Officers don’t use force on the direction of another, or the Government. They are empowered to act as themselves and they ultimately carry the can when they overstep the mark.
Her next paragraph shows a complete and total lack of understanding for police, our work and the risks we face on a day-to-day basis. The compilation of a list that indicates situations where Taser can and cannot be used if fanciful ignorance. We deal with people. People are unique, individual and react in totally different ways to the next. People are not predictable. The minute we start to treat all members of the public as predictable is the moment that the Police National Memorial will need to look at expansion plans. We have to take people as we find them, the environment they are in and the circumstances of their situation. Guidelines are simply that. “GUIDELINES”. They cannot and would not expect to cover every single situation that officers may face. We fall back to the previous statement regarding s3 of the Criminal Law Act. The officers must assess, use and justify what force is used and sometimes with a fraction of a second to make that decision.
The final section of Ms Khan’s post covers some figures for the Taser company and draws comparisons to the police in the United States. Any such comparison is futile as the policing operation in the United States is entirely different to that in the UK. You only have to look at the tweets from retired LAPD Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster in the states to see how many officers are killed and how many people are shot dead by the american police. They operate in a totally different arena and the two cannot be drawn to a juxtaposition. This shows Ms Khan’s desire to pull information from any source that supports her argument without any reference how incompatible the source and reference are.
I stand by my original tweet. I disagree entirely with her post. The issue of Taser is approved by the home office and being introduced by forces around the country. I don’t know that the routine arming of all officers with Taser is a good idea, even if only based on cost but I have seen far to many friends and colleagues stabbed, beaten and killed where Taser may well have assisted. The deployment of the kit on a vehicle that is 30 mins away is no use to the officer who needs it right now. Therefore whilst it may be unpalatable to some, the increase and more widespread use of Taser is inevitable.
I will close with one final sentence. Ms Khan makes reference to the fact that officers using Taser could be torturing their target contrary to Sch 3 of the ECHR. How unsettling and worrying that she makes no reference to the police officers rights on Sch 2. The officers right to life. The officer who has a right to come to work and go home to his/her family at the end of the day. Not to wind up in hospital or worse still a wooden box.