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Taser use by Kent police is highest in south east, Independent Police Complaints Commision report reveals

By KentOnline reporter

Tasers were used more often by Kent Police than any other force in the region, it's been revealed.

Latest figures by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) have shown stun guns were used 229 times in the county in 2013.

That is 21 times more than in the second highest area in the south east, Thames Valley - despite that force employing around 1,000 more officers.

A taser-style gun. Stock image
A taser-style gun. Stock image

In Kent that represents seven uses per 100 officers - which is slightly less than the force with the highest proportion to officers, which is Surrey.

But it is a far way off from the area with the highest use of stun guns - the Metropolitan Police - who fired them more than 2,100 times last year.

The device was originally introduced as an alternative to firearms, giving officers a "less lethal" option to guns.

The term "use" can range from anything including drawing and aiming the gun to full-blown firing at someone.

Home Office figures show taser use has increased nationally by 232% since they were allowed to be fired in more circumstances, for example where there is a threat of severe violence.

The commission's report said: "The IPCC has particular concerns about the use of taser on people who are in police custody, and has carried out investigation that have looked into this.

"The IPCC believes that this is only justifiable in exceptional circumstances, taking into consideration the controlled nature of the custody environment."

It was also concerned of the weapons on those with mental health difficulties and on young people.

Kent Police Assistant Chief Constable Jo Shiner said: "In 2013 tasers were fired or used in stun mode 44 times by Kent Police, up slightly from 35 times in 2012.

"All Kent Police officers who carry tasers are trained to the national standard. The use of taser is safe, effective and reduces the risk to everybody involved, ensuring the protection of the public and officers alike."

Grix was found with a taser. Stock image.
Grix was found with a taser. Stock image.

Ian Pointon, chairman of Kent Police Federation, defended officers' use of tasers.

He said: “Whilst you highlight police officers in Kent using Taser 229 times in 2013, it was only fired on 44 occasions.

"That’s less than once per week. It is clear that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the simple threat of its use is enough to make violent criminals moderate their behaviour. That must be a positive.”

He added: "Taser is a highly effective piece of equipment that enables officers to protect themselves and the public.

"If activated it does not leave the suspect with any after-effects, unlike the use of a baton that can cause bruising and even break bones. Consequently it is ironic that so much negative attention is focused on Tasers.

"We are fortunate to live in a society where police officers do not routinely carry guns and we police by consent.

"However, the police are often faced with extreme violence and must be able to properly protect themselves and the public. Taser is an excellent and safe means of achieving that.”

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