Thursday, April 24, 2014

50,000 Volts of Extra Judicial Punishment

Not often you get a police officer in the dock. PC Lee Birch tasered a naked prisoner in his cell in retaliation for being flicked in the face with boxer shorts, a court has been told.

Daniel Dove, who had been arrested for being drunk outside a nightclub and in a case that was later dropped, says he was given no warning, just shot with the 50,000 volt weapon whilst not being violent and 'there was a lot of pain'.

When tasers were brought in we were told they were vital to give officers a less-lethal alternative to firearms when facing rabid marauders with samurai swords. Genuinely, samurai swords were singled out.

But, like the way the supposedly last-ditch pepper spray has become the next thing to use after a raised voice, so tasers are being used in controlled, contained situations against prisoners who are not only unarmed but unclothed.

There may be some solace in the fact that PC Birch is being prosecuted for Actual Bodily Harm and Misconduct in a Public Office, but let's wait until we see the verdict. Either way, Birch isn't the only one.

Just three weeks ago, the Independent Police Complaints Authority published its report into tasering at Burnley police station. There had been two complaints of people being tasered in cells in order to make them take their clothes off to be strip searched.

The report was unequivocal

The guidance that is issued to forces says this must never happen. Taser is not something that should be used to make people follow police orders as a matter of convenience.

It also condemned

inappropriate comments made by officers during booking-in procedures and after Taser was used in one of the cases, which suggested an unprofessional, casual and dismissive approach to use of force on detainees.

Despite the evidence that it was at least partially punitive, and the admission that officers had laughed at the people they'd just tasered, the IPCC ruled that not only is tasering of unarmed people in cells acceptable, but these two specific incidents were fine.

Looking at six similar sized forces, they found 18 uses of tasers in custody over a year and so Burnley police and the Lancashire constabulary were not using tasers disproportionately compared to others. Whether the use by all seven forces was disproportionate to the situations they use tasers in is a question that remains unanswered.

No comments: