Police use of Taser, a weapon which produces a 50,000 volt electric shock, is controversial.
Gwent Police have reported this morning that a man has died in custody following his arrest during an incident in South Wales. The tragedy is particularly notable as it involves use of Taser by the police during the arrest. The report states that the man “became unresponsive” after being taken into custody. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating.
Police use of Taser, a weapon which produces a 50,000 volt electric shock, is controversial. In England and Wales at least 10 deaths linked to police use of Taser have occurred since the weapon was first introduced in 2004. In the US, there are reports of over 800 deaths linked to Taser use by police officers since 2009. This latest incident adds significantly to the controversy.
The electric current can potentially interfere with the body’s electrical signals. In it’s guidance the manufacturer, Taser International, states that firing at the chest area in particular should be avoided due to the risk that doing so could cause “serious complications”, particularly for individuals with “impaired heart function or fitted with an implanted cardiac pacemaker or defibrillator”. In 2013 though, The Guardian reported that 57% of Taser shots were aimed at the chest area based on figures obtained from 18 police forces in England and Wales.
Taser use generally has increased substantially in England and Wales since 2009, according to Home Office figures released last month. In the first six months of 2014 Tasers were used 5,107 times, compared to 1,297 times for the same period in 2009.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission published a report in June 2014 calling for increased training for officers using the weapon. It referred in particular to use in “drive-stun” mode, which is intended as a means of gaining compliance through the application of pain, stating that the increase in Taser use could lead to officers becoming “increasingly reliant on using force to gain compliance”.
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