Use of Tasers by Metropolitan Police doubles over two years

The number of times that officers from London's Metropolitan Police used Tasers increased sharply between 2011 and 2012, and figures covering the first three months of 2013 indicate that usage is likely to increase further.

Tasers are electroshock weapons that deliver a 50,000 volt charge into the body through metal barbs. According to figures released at the end of last year in response to a Freedom of Information request, in 2011 officers used them 378 times. The total for 2012 was 713, an increase of 188%. [1]

The force also released figures for the first three months of 2013, when officers used the electroshock weapons 353 times. If this level of use continued throughout the following nine months of 2013, then the total would be approximately double the 2012 figure.

The police response to the Freedom of Information request, which was published on the Met's disclosure log, [2] notes that due to the "roll out" of an increased number of Tasers to London borough forces: "the number of offcer's [sic] trained in Taser increased throughout 2012/13 which would have resulted in an increase in Taser use".

Last week Thames Valley Police was criticised by Amnesty International UK after it was revealed that its use of Tasers had doubled. Its officers deployed the weapons 61 times in 2012 and 119 times in 2013. [3]

In September last year Home Office figures revealed that, nationwide, police use of Tasers more than doubled between 2009 (3,128 uses) and 2011 (7,877) uses. [4]

The technology allows the recording of each individual use. These come under a number of categories:

  • drawing of a Taser in circumstances where any person perceives the action as a use of force;
  • sparking of the Taser commonly known as "arcing";
  • aiming of the Taser or placing the laser sight red dot onto a subject;
  • firing of a Taser so that barbs are discharged at a subject; and
  • application and discharge of a Taser in "drive stun mode" to a subject. [5]

"Drive stun" involves giving an individual an electric shock by holding a Taser directly against their body, without firing the barbs.

In 2011 Tasers were fired or used in "drive stun" mode 129 times, in 2012 147 times, and in the first three months of 2013 48 times.

Increases over the period are sharpest in the "red dot" and "drawn" categories.

In 2011 Metropolitan Police officers aimed the weapon's red laser dot at individuals 148 times. In 2012 this jumped to 307 times - an increase of over 200% - and in the first three months of 2013 the "red dot" was deployed 172 times.

In 2011 officers drew Tasers 75 times; in 2012, 213 times; and in the first three months of 2013, 102 times. From 2011 to 2012, the figures equate to a 284% increase.

The issuing of thousands more Tasers to police in London was heavily criticised last October when the London Assembly's Police and Crime Committee, made up of elected representatives, said in a report that the decision took place "through private conversations and behind closed doors" and "did now allow Londoners an opportunity to challenge the MPS's reasoning or determine how successfully Taser had been used in the past." [6]

Last week it was announced that Lancashire Police have set a date for a disciplinary hearing for an officer who in 2012 used a Taser on a blind stroke victim after mistaking his white stick for a samurai sword, [7] and in October last year two officers from Merseyside police were sacked after they wrongfully arrested a man and Tasered him five times. [8]

Further reading

[1] Metropolitan Police, Freeom of Information request response, December 2013
[2] Metropolitan Police, MPS Publication Scheme Disclosure Log
[3] Press Association, 'Charity criticses police over Taser use', The Guardian, 17 January 2014
[4] 'Police user of Tasers more than doubles', Statewatch News Online, 12 September 2013
[5] ACPO, 'Operational Use of Taser by Authorised Firearms Officers', December 2008
[6] 'Increased deployment of Tasers in London "should not have to involve politicians"', Statewatch News Online, 26 October 2013
[7] 'Disciplinary hearing is set for taser police officer', Lancashire Evening Post, 17 January 2014
[8] Paul Keaveny, 'Two police officers sacked over using Taser on innocent man five times', The Independent, 22 October 2013

Search our database for more articles and information or subscribe to our mailing list for regular updates from Statewatch News Online.

Support our work by making a one-off or regular donation to help us continue to monitor the state and civil liberties in Europe.

We welcome contributions to News Online and comments on this website. E-mail us, call +44 (0) 207 697 4266, or send post to PO Box 1516, London, N16 0EW.

Home | News Online | Journal | Observatories | Analyses | Database | SEMDOC | About Statewatch

© Statewatch ISSN 1756-851X. Personal usage as private individuals/"fair dealing" is allowed. We also welcome links to material on our site. Usage by those working for organisations is allowed only if the organisation holds an appropriate licence from the relevant reprographic rights organisation (eg: Copyright Licensing Agency in the UK) with such usage being subject to the terms and conditions of that licence and to local copyright law.