Chair’s disappointment at Taser report

The chair of Gwent Federation says he’s disappointed the Federation was not consulted as part of a new Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) report into the use of Taser.

Steve Thorpe says the report – which examined 101 IOPC  investigations involving Taser use between 2015 and 2020, a period during which devices were deployed almost 100,000 times – involved a tiny fraction of the overall deployment of the devices.

The report has made 17 recommendations to the College of Policing, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, and the Home Office seeking improvements to national guidance and training; scrutiny and monitoring of Taser use; and data and research.

And Steve said: “We recognise that scrutiny and review of our powers is important in maintaining the trust of the people we serve. However, this review doesn’t tell the whole story about the use of Taser.

“It looks at a tiny proportion of the incidents involving Taser and, disappointingly, hasn’t consulted the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) and taken into account the views of frontline police officers.

“Indeed, Michael Lockwood, the IOPC’s director general, acknowledges in the foreword to the report the protection Taser can provide for officers facing dangerous situations and, therefore, for the public they’re looking to protect.

“There’s always room for improvement but officers who use Taser are highly-trained and in the majority of incidents the presence of Taser is enough to resolve a situation without it being used.”

The Federation national vice-chair Ché Donald was also critical members were left out of the consultation process.

He said: “For many years, PFEW has fully supported the IOPC’s desire to seek improvements to national Taser guidance and training. Police officers are the practitioners of Taser and would ultimately be affected by these recommendations if implemented. We are naturally disappointed our 130,000 members were not consulted.”

The NPCC lead for less lethal weapons Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi has also criticised the review.

She said: “Unfortunately, this report by the IOPC is vague, lacks detail, does not have a substantive evidence base and regrettably ignores extensive pieces of work that are already well underway and, indeed, other areas where improvement could be made.

“I advised the IOPC of my concerns and am extremely disappointed that it did not engage with policing, attend a Taser training course or consult the national independent experts who we work with whilst undertaking its initial research.”

In terms of the 101 Taser uses considered, she added: “Focusing on these smaller number of cases missed an opportunity to consider Taser use more broadly and unfortunately has resulted in recommendations which are mostly out of date and not based on the realities of policing. The focus on such a small data set ignores good practice and learning elsewhere.”