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    British Police Officer and a taser gun

    UK Police Get to Grips With Possibly Lethal Taser as Use on Children Rises 25%

    © AFP 2019 / CARL DE SOUZA
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    Police taser use against children leaped 25 percent in the UK in 2016 compared to the previous year, with 597 deployments in total compared to 467. The figures come as police are being equipped with a growing number of ever more powerful tasers, with the potential to kill.

    Since December 2008, the UK has increasingly been abuzz with police brandishing electroshock weapons. In the first year of their deployment, Metropolitan Police officers alone used them on children nine times in total — in the first eleven months of 2016, this figure had jumped to 118, of which 70 percent of the cases involved black and minority ethnic children. Between 2010 and 2015, UK police officers drew, aimed or fired Tasers a total of 38,000 times — and official figures revealed non-white suspects were three times more likely to be tasered than whites.

    Evidently, despite calls from critics to address this disproportionate, racially biased approach to taser usage, the phenomenon persists — even when children are the target.

    In Lincolnshire, the use of tasers against children in Lincolnshire rose by half in 2016, in Wales 30 percent in Wales, and in Surrey and Hertfordshire the rate doubled. In Greater Manchester, the devices were drawn 38 times in total.

    The figures are particularly troubling given that in March, Home Secretary Amber Rudd authorized police to use the Taser X2 model, an upgrade of the standard issue Taser X26, which allows two shots instead of one as well as possessing a number of "smart" features.

    The move came in response to a request from the Police Federation of England and Wales, issued in 2016. PFEW asked then-Home Secretary Theresa May to authorize the use of 50,000-volt stun guns by, and issue the weapon to, all frontline police officers in the UK. At the time, only one in ten officers were permitted to carry and use one.

    The 50,000-volt devices were authorized despite widespread public opposition — and the potential for them to inflict potentially deadly shocks. In particular, stun gun victims and the families of those killed and injured by tasers campaigned vociferously against their use as well as calling for police officers to record the deployments. Racial profiling is also a concern. Government advisers acknowledged stun gun usage in the UK had led to an increase in deaths and injuries in custody but rejected the adoption would cause any further casualty rises. Precautionary measures have nonetheless been adopted, with Rudd outlining requirements for police officers to record the details of each deployment as well as the age and ethnicity of those involved.

    In June, the Children's Rights Alliance for England issued a stark warning over the proposed expansion of police tasers in the UK.

    "The more tasers we have on our streets, the more they are used on children. [Such use] must not become routine, tasers can inflict intolerable pain. The government's own medical advisory committee has flagged concerns and recommended further study into the safety risks of these devices. Last year the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said the UK should prohibit use on children because of concerns about the impact on physical and mental health," the Alliance said.

    As well as dangerous, the deployment of the X2 model will not be cheap — in March, the Home Office awarded a US$58 million (£45 million) contract to Axon Public Safety to produce and supply the weapons.

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    Tags:
    police tactics, lethal force, children's rights, policing, taser, police, Metropolitan Police, Britain, United Kingdom
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