the Disillusioned kid: Assault With Battery
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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Assault With Battery

In my post and article on the introduction of Tasers in the UK I bemoaned the fact that the move seemed to have been made with minimal discussion. I have to say that I was more than a little surprised to see that one of the first people to speak up on the issue was LibDem MP Lembit Opik.

The Montgomeryshire MP has written to North Wales and Dyfed-Powys police expressing fears that officers have too much discretion over when to use the weapons. He warned that the stun guns might be used to break up drunken fights. He told the Daily Post, "I am asking them to rule out using Tasers in any situation where they would not have used guns." He continued, "If these weapons are used to police the kinds of incidents that arise at pub closing time, then policing in this country will be changed forever."

This all seems very sensible. The police's response?
[B]oth forces said they complied with guidelines set down by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).

Acpo's policy document states Tasers will "only be deployed alongside conventional firearms".

But an Acpo spokeswoman said: "We do think they can be a useful tool in a non-firearms situation."
Doesn't that reassure you?

In related news, Taser International are being sued in four US states by police officers who allege that they were injured by the weapons in training. They claim that the company misled law encorcement officials about the capacity of the deivces to inflict injury. It's difficult to disagree here with SchNEWS' response: "We’re still ‘stunned’ that they thought being temporarily paralysed with a 50,000-volt jolt wouldn’t hurt!" Neverthless, these cases do provide additional credibility to concerns about the dangers posed by tasers. Unsurprisingly, Taser's vice-president Steve Tuttle announced that they would "aggresively fight" all the suits.

These cases are perhaps part of the motivation behind a major PR campaign currently being waged by Taser in the States which hopes to "prove" to people that the weapons are in fact safe. As you might expect, the company is not best pleased by suggestions that its product might just be a little bit dangerous. No doubt we can expect something similar here if concern about the devices ever amounts to anything.

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