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Tasers vs Truncheons – By Rupert Matthews, Leicestershire Police & Crime Commissioner

A report has just come out that shows that the UK police used their taser stun guns more often last year than ever before. Some may find this worrying, others will find it reassuring. 

Tasers are, after all, formidable weapons. They fire metal darts, connected to an electricity supply by wires. When they hit a person’s body the darts deliver a high voltage electricity charge which will knock the average human off their feet and render them insensible for long enough to allow the police officer to snap on handcuffs. 

Let’s look at the figures. 

Last year police officers drew their tasers on 23,000 occasions. If that sounds a lot, then it is. Last year the same figure was just 17,000 and in 2016 it was only 11,000. On the other hand tasers were fired only 2,300 times. This means that on nine out of ten occasions the mere threat of the use of a taser was enough to calm the situation down. 

One person died after being hit by a taser last year. They collapsed unconscious and fell of the balcony on which they were standing. That was in London. 

Of course, tasers are not the only weapon available to the police when dealing with a violent or disruptive suspect. In total, there were 428,000 recorded incidents in which a police officer used force last year. Restraint tactics, such as handcuffing, were the most common type of force – and were used 401,000 times. Plastic bullets were used 28 times last year. Then there are the traditional truncheons used by police officers since the first police officer walked the streets nearly two centuries ago. 

Here in Leicestershire, I have myself witnessed the training that officers undergo before they are allowed to have a taser. It is rigorous and detailed. The officers are expected to understand the capabilities of a taser, the law around its use and its impact on the suspect. They also go through detailed role-playing scenarios to test their ability to think quickly and competently about when a taser should be used or when another method dealing with a violent suspect would be more appropriate.

Having satisfied myself that the training here is first class, I have adopted a policy that any police officer who wants to have a taser and has passed the rigorous training course should be issued with one. 

That is a bold policy, but I believe it is the correct one.

Leicester Time: Tasers vs Truncheons - By Rupert Matthews, Leicestershire Police & Crime Commissioner
Picture: Rupert Matthews

Police officers across our city and two counties put themselves in harm’s way day in and day out to protect us from harm. It is vital we give them the powers and equipment they need to fight crime and stay safe on the job.

Having a Taser gives officers the capability to defend not only themselves but also the public they want to protect.