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Tasers are just one of many tools at our disposal for resolving violent incidents and will be deployed once an officer has made an appropriate and detailed risk assessment based upon the threat. Northumbria Police first issued tasers to non-firearms officers in 2009.

What is a taser?

Tasers are used only by highly trained Northumbria police officers. The device uses an electrical current which interferes with the body’s neuromuscular system and designed to temporarily incapacitate a suspect. It allows officers to deal with violent or potentially violent people at a distance.

A taser is a bright yellow and black hand-held weapon similar in shape and size to a pistol. It has a single shot and is electronically controlled.

A taser is usually held in a holster on an officer's body armour but can be carried in other positions For instance on a firearms officer it is worn on the opposite side on their conventional firearm. It’s clearly visible, designed to stand out and can be easily identified.

In the relatively small number of incidents where tasers have been used, we follow strict guidance, ensuring they are only used when there is a danger to the public, officers or risk of self-harm.

Taser provides an additional option to resolve situations such as violent behaviour. In certain circumstances, the use of taser is more appropriate than other use of force options in resolving dangerous situations safely and with less risk of serious injury. Officers who are trained and equipped with a taser must decide on the most reasonable and necessary use of force in the circumstances. The level of force used must be proportionate and officers are individually accountable in law for the amount of force they use.

FAQ

What is Taser?

Taser is a registered trade mark brand name for a CED (conducted energy device) that allows officers to deal with violent or potentially violent people at a distance.

The model of CED (conducted energy device) used by UK Police since 2005 is the TASER X26, but this model is no longer in production and will be gradually replaced by the TASER X2.

How does Taser work?

Taser is a single shot device designed to temporarily incapacitate a subject through use of an electrical current which temporarily interferes with the body’s neuromuscular system.

It is one of a number of tactical options available when dealing with an incident with potential for conflict.

How do officers make a decision to use Taser?

Officers use the National Decision Model (NDM) when arriving at a decision to use force. The National Decision Model is a police framework that enables officers to make considered and consistent decisions. Officers will look at each individual case and decide on the most appropriate tactical option that is in line with the law and is proportionate and necessary in the circumstances.

Is every police officer given a Taser?

No. Every chief constable makes a decision, based on an assessment of the risks in their own area, to train and deploy a proportionate number of officers to use Tasers so that the public are kept safe and police officers are protected as far as possible.

Every use of Tasers is reported and scrutinised and officers are individually accountable to the law for the amount of force they use. Not everyone will be accepted for training in the use of Tasers.

What happens to someone when a Taser is used on them?

The normal reaction of a person exposed to the electrical discharge of a Taser is pain, coupled with the loss of voluntary muscle control which can result in the subject falling to the ground or freezing on the spot. Recovery from these effects should be almost instantaneous once the discharge turns off. Anyone who is arrested after being subjected to Taser discharge is examined by a medical professional. 

After a Taser is used on someone, are the medical implications taken into account?

Yes. The medical implications associated with use of Tasers are closely monitored by an independent panel of medical and lay advisers who also monitor learning from across the world. In addition, the Authorised Professional Practice (APP) is supported by a detailed training curriculum which is delivered to all Taser officers; these officers also receive an annual refresher course.

What happens if someone is on drugs when Taser is used on them?

Taser can be a useful tool in safely subduing intoxicated people who might otherwise be difficult to restrain. Other more traditional restraint methods can lead to injury to both the person and officers. If a person is severely intoxicated, their response to Taser discharge or, indeed, any other use of force, may be different from someone who is not badly intoxicated.

What happens if someone with a heart problem or other medical condition has a Taser used on them?

Officers won’t always know the people they are faced with or be aware of their medical history. The officers still have to deal with the circumstances presented to them. Some people who are violent may have a condition that they themselves are unaware of. What is important is that the officer deals with any threat in a proportionate manner and only uses the type and degree of force that is necessary in the circumstances. If an officer becomes concerned with someone’s welfare, they will treat it as a medical emergency and get the person to hospital as fast as possible.

What happens if someone has Taser used on them more than once?

Sometimes a longer period of Taser discharge is needed when a person continues to be violent after the initial discharge. People who have taken illicit stimulant drugs can fall into this category. However, Taser officers are trained to always use the minimum duration of discharge necessary to bring a violent situation to a close. Usually a single 5-second (or shorter) discharge is sufficient.

Why is Taser used on people who are mentally ill or who are vulnerable?

Taser is used in situations of violence and potential violence. Police have a duty to de-escalate events to try to stop situations from turning violent in an effort to protect the public and themselves. On 80% of occasions when officers are presented with violence or potential violence, the mere presence of the Taser is enough to bring that situation to a swift conclusion without the need for physical force to be used. In such dynamic situations, officers aren’t always going to know the person’s background or medical history. It is in these instances that officers use their experience and training to make a decision on what use of force option to adopt. If immediate action is needed and a Taser is deployed, following the situation calming down, officers will make sure the individual is given immediate medical attention if needed, which includes hospital transfer if necessary. The priority is to remove the risk the person presents to themselves and others with the least intrusive option.

Can Taser be used on children?

There is no lower or upper limit on the age of the person that Taser can be used upon. Common sense is applied here on an individual basis. However, officers are taught that there may be an increased risk of cardiac arrhythmia and probe dart penetration in children and thin adults. A child is classed as someone under the age of 18.

Are complaints involving Taser taken seriously?

Yes. All complaints about police activity are taken seriously. In the rare case of a death or serious injury, which can occur in association with the use of any type of force, it becomes mandatory for the force to refer the matter to the IOPC. The IOPC will then conduct a thorough independent investigation.

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