"Taser is a very useful tool for police but is not without its challenges, especially when dealing with vulnerable members of society. We have taken a great deal of time and effort to try and get the use of Taser right; our training for staff is some of the most comprehensive in the country but we are not complacent. Each incident where a Taser is drawn or used is reviewed by a senior officer so that lessons may be learned and we monitor any developing trends in Taser usage."
- ACC Steve Barry
What is Taser?
The Taser is a single shot device designed to temporarily incapacitate a person through use of an electrical current which temporarily interferes with the body’s neuromuscular system.
Tasers can be worn on the belt or on an officer’s body armour and is distinguishable as it is bright yellow in colour.
The National Police Chief's Council (NPCC) have produced this short documentary explaining the fundamentals of Taser: why it’s needed, how it works, and who can use it.
Taser works on two levels - Psychological and physiological
Taser stands out, it is yellow and black. The laser sight allows the officer to accurately aim the Taser as well as giving a clear warning to the subject that they have been targeted. Publicity through the press and on social media has meant that most suspects are aware of the effects of Taser and tend to surrender without the need to discharge the weapon. In the vast majority of cases it was not necessary to discharge the Taser, its presence alone was enough to bring the situation to a swift conclusion without the need for force to be used.
When fired Taser delivers a sequence of very short high voltage pulses that result in the loss of voluntary muscle control causing the subject to fall to the ground or freeze. In the X26 the voltage peaks at 50,000 volts and when it reaches the body it is substantially less. The volts are responsible for delivering the amps. Taser runs off 0.0021 amps at average performance.
When Taser, or any other force is used on an individual, a police officer will always have to justify their actions as being necessary and proportionate under the Law.
All uses of Taser are reported to the Home Office in great detail, including those where young or otherwise vulnerable people are involved.
Taser can be used in a number of different ways, many of which involve applying no force on a person. In the majority of cases, incidents can be resolved by the psychological impact of Taser without it ever being ‘fired’. The different types of usage are categorised as:
Drawn: Removed from holster
Aimed: Pointed at the subject
Red Dot: The Taser is pointed at the subject with red dot laser sight active so that red dot appears on the subject
Arced: No cartridge attached. Taser switched on and trigger squeezed in order that electric current arcs between contacts on front of Taser
Fired: Cartridge attached. Taser switched on and trigger squeezed causing cartridge to fire
Drive Stun: No cartridge attached. Front of Taser placed against subject and arced
Angled drive stun: Cartridge on. After an ineffective firing (barb placements too close together or failure of one barb to attach), the front of the Taser is placed on the subject away from the barbs and the Taser activated
Professional training and scrutiny
Taser training doesn’t simply focus on the Taser itself, officers are trained to assess the correct circumstances where Taser could be used. Officers are trained to identify when the use is proportionate, legal and necessary and about their accountability for their actions.