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Taser

A Taser is a less-lethal single shot weapon designed to temporarily incapacitate a suspect through the use of an electrical current. It is a hand-held weapon similar in shape and size to a pistol, but is bright yellow in colour.

The X26 Taser, used by trained City of London Police officers, uses an electrical current which interferes with the body’s neuromuscular system. It allows officers to deal with violent or potentially violent people at a distance.

Taser is secured in a holster, which can be worn on an officer’s belt or an officer’s body armour (On a firearms officer it is worn on the opposite side on their conventional firearm) along with other officer safety equipment. It is clearly visible, being predominantly yellow with a black handgrip, designed to stand out and be identified as a Taser.

How Taser works

Taser works on two levels - Psychological and physiological

Psychological

Taser stands out, it is yellow and black. The laser sight (red dot) 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.

Physiological

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.

To explain this in simple terms, volts deliver the amps to where they need to go. If you take the analogy of water flowing through a hose, the AMPS are the water and the volts are the hose.

Amps can vary in size, to put this into context no more than 13 amps are needed to power a kettle. 32 amps are usually found running around a typical house. Two to three amps are enough to cause a person some harm. Taser runs on considerably less at 0.0021 amps

At the science museum they had a Van de Graaff generator which the public were invited to touch. The generator had in excess of 1 million volts going through it. When the glass ball was touched it caused the persons hair to stand on end. They were able to do this safely because there were no amps carried by the volts.

Angled drive stun

Taser is designed to safely incapacitate a person at distance, sometimes distance cannot be achieved due to the subject being too close to the police officer. On some of these occasions it will be appropriate for an officer to incapacitate the subject by carrying out an angled drive stun. This involves activating the loaded Taser close to the subject’s body and then placing the Taser against another part of their body to incapacitate them.

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 people are involved.

Professional training and scrutiny

All officers from the City of London selected to use Taser must pass an intensive three day Taser training course prior to becoming qualified Taser operators. The course includes detailed assessments on decision making, scenario based incidents, use of force and the medical implications of the use of Taser.

Taser training in the City of London doesn’t just focus on the Taser itself. It helps officers to fine tune existing skills and teaches them the importance of communication, justification and management of post use procedures.

Before attending a course, officers must be up to date with Officer Safety Training, Emergency Life Support, pass a fitness test, have a valid eyesight test and have been recommended by their unit Inspector. Officer’s professional standards records are checked too.

City of London Police officers selected for training must pass an intensive three day course before qualifying as a Taser operator. The course combines practical scenarios with classroom based learning and continuous assessment.

Practical scenarios aim to test the officer’s decision making processes and application of the relevant legislation around the use of force. Officers are also tested in recognising medical emergencies and any adverse reactions arising from the use of force. Taser training in the City of London follows national standards and guidelines.

Taser Initial course contents

  • How to use Taser - This is taught through drills in a shooting range environment and re-enforced in practical scenarios

  • When to use it - Lessons cover rationale, what your options are, looking at all the tactics available both as an individual or as part of a group. This is guided by the National Decision Model, Human Rights Act and domestic law - see related link.

  • Post use procedure - How to retrieve and record evidence, including identification discs and data port downloads

Assessment

Officers are continuously assessed throughout the course. There are three specific tests :-

  1. Qualification shoot - officers are tested in accuracy, handling the Taser and use of safety against static targets 
  2.  A written exam
  3. Scenarios - officers are tested in situations that resemble real life. e.g. how to deal with someone armed with a knife

Refresher Training

Once qualified as a Taser user, officers must take part in an annual one day refresher course.

Justification

Officers have to justify every time they remove the Taser from the holster. This justification is checked by a number of levels of supervision.

Every time an officer removes the Taser from the holster they are required to complete an account of the incident that led to its removal. Complete the national Taser form, which documents the use of the Taser. This is quality assured by their line supervisor, then by the City of London Taser manager, who passes on the completed document to the Home Office.

Frequently asked questions

People are asking more questions now than ever before about the police use of Taser and what it means for policing and protecting the public.

Find out more about how taser works, when it can be used, follow up procedures and some of the other considerations and issues involved.

When was Taser introduced?

In 2004, following a trial in five forces, it was agreed to allow chief officers of all police forces in England and Wales to make Taser available to authorised firearms officers.

In July 2007 authorised police firearms officers were allowed to use Taser in a greater set of circumstances. These officers are now able to deploy Taser in operations or incidents where the use of firearms is not authorised, but where they are facing violence or threats of violence of such severity that they would need to use force to protect the public, themselves or the subject.

It was also announced in July 2007 that the deployment of Taser by specially trained police units who are not firearms officers, but who are facing similar threats of violence, would be trialed in ten police forces.

The 12-month trial commenced on 1 September 2007 and finished on 31 August 2008. It took place in the following forces: Avon & Somerset, Devon & Cornwall, Gwent, Lincolnshire, Merseyside, Metropolitan Police, Northamptonshire, Northumbria, North Wales and West Yorkshire.

Following the success of the trial, from 1 December 2008, Taser use was extended to specially trained units.

Taser was authorised for use by City of London Specially Trained Units in December 2007. The force trained officers and they were deployed in February 2009.

When can officers in the City of London use Taser?

Taser may be deployed and used as one of a number of tactical options only after application of the National Decision Model (NDM). 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 people are involved.

Is every police officer in London given a Taser?

No.

Every Chief Constable or Commissioner 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 Taser so that the public are kept safe and their officers are protected as far as possible.

Why does the City of London use Taser?

Taser is an additional tactical option that allows officers to manage situations where violence is threatened or likely from a safe distance. - In the vast majority of cases where Taser is deployed the mere threat of its use has been enough to bring violent or potentially violent situations to a safe and peaceful resolution. In certain circumstances, the use of Taser is more appropriate than conventional firearms in resolving dangerous situations safely and without the risk of serious injury.

In addition, officers who are trained and equipped with Taser must decide on the most reasonable and necessary use of force in the circumstances. The level of force used must be the minimum necessary to achieve the objective and officers are individually accountable in law for the amount of force they use on a person.

The alternatives to Taser include a range of other measures such as physical restraint, batons, incapacitating spray and police dogs. Much will depend upon the circumstances, but Taser will often be less likely to cause injury than the use of a police baton or a police dog.

What happens to someone when Taser is used on them?

The normal reaction of a person exposed to the discharge of a Taser is the loss of some voluntary muscle control resulting in the subject falling to the ground or freezing on the spot. Recovery from the direct effects of the Taser should be almost instantaneous, once the discharge is complete.

Anyone arrested having been Tasered is routinely examined by a medical practitioner.

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

Yes.

The medical implications associated with Taser are closely monitored by an independent panel of medical advisers who also monitor other learning from elsewhere in the world. This enables the City of London and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) to constantly review the guidance to ensure that it remains fit for purpose.

In addition, the NPCC guidance is supported by a detailed training curriculum which is delivered to all Taser officers and refreshed annually.

What happens if someone on drugs is Tasered?

Drug use is a common cause of violent dangerous and unpredictable behaviour, and Tasers can be a useful tool in safely subduing drug affected people who can otherwise be very difficult to restrain. Other more traditional methods can lead to injury to both the person and officers.

What happens if someone with a heart problem is Tasered?

Officers won’t always know the people they are faced with or 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 not even they are aware of. What is important, is that the officer deals with the situation in a proportionate manner and only uses that force which is necessary in the circumstances.

If an officer becomes aware that the person they are dealing with is suffering from a condition, they will treat the person as a medical emergency and get them to hospital.

What happens if someone is Tasered more than once?

There are instances where people have been subjected to more than one use of the Taser in the UK with no ill effect.

Tasers have been called '50,000 volt stun guns'. Are people hit with 50,000 volts?

No.

It is not correct to say Tasers use 50,000 volts to stun people, that is not how they operate.
At the top of a Taser there are two contact points which need to link together. In order to do this, the Taser generates a maximum peak voltage of 50,000 volts for less than a second to allow the arc to jump a gap so the two contact points meet.

The Taser also does this in incidents where a probe lodges in clothing and must jump the gap to the body. When travelling across the human body, the peak voltage drops to 1,200 volts. It should also be pointed out that volts are not dangerous. The average current a Taser emits is 0.0021amps.

A Taser works not by power, but by the way it sends the current into the body and how the muscles respond. For example, the energy delivered per pulse is 0.07 joules compared to a cardiac defibrillator which typically delivers 150-400 joules per pulse, which is 2,000 to 5,000 times more powerful.

Which Taser do trained and qualified City of London officers use?

The X26 Taser.

How can police be confident the right amount of current comes out of a Taser?

The manufacturer carries out thorough tests on all of it’s Tasers, which are guaranteed by an internationally recognised quality assurance body to ensure they meet operational specifications before they are supplied. Tasers are also checked to ensure they are functioning correctly

If the current Taser works, why do we need a new one?

The police service is legally bound to explore alternatives to lethal force and continuously examines new technology to examine whether there are any developments which could be applied in UK policing .

The Taser X26 has been commercially available since 2003. As with all electronic devices, technology moves on and new models may offer significant advances in safety, use and accountability. All equipment has a realistic life expectancy and will eventually need to be replaced.  

How do I make a complaint about Taser use?

The City of London Police aim to deliver quality policing. For us there is no greater priority. We understand that if we are going to learn from experience and find ways to improve, we need to listen and respond to the needs and views of Londoners. Your views are therefore very important to us.

Where a police officer or a member of City of London staff has failed to meet the standards you expect from an City of London employee, you can complain about their conduct. For example, if you think they have been rude or abused their authority. This type of complaint is what is normally understood as ‘a complaint against police’ and is covered by specific legislation and overseen by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, (IPCC). 

Find out more about the City of London complaints process.

All complaints regarding the use of a Taser will be referred to the IPCC. You can make a complaint on the phone, via email, by visiting your local police station or by completing the City of London complaints form.

Common Taser related terms

​Red dot

The Taser has a laser sighting system which allows the officer to mark the suspect with a red dot. This has the advantage of letting the officer know they are on target and also letting the suspect know that they have been targeted.

‘Arcing’

This is a ‘show of strength’ aimed at deterring a suspect. This is achieved when the officer squeezes the trigger without the cartridge attached and the electric current flows between the two contacts at the end of the Taser. An audible and visual display of electricity crackling across the two contacts can be seen and heard.

Cartridges

These contain a pair of wires with barbs attached that carry the electric current to the subject’s body. The cartridge is clipped on to the front of the Taser. The Taser works by delivering an electrical charge to the body.

City of London Police use of Taser statistics

Taser data can be viewed on our Stop and Search dashboard.

Visit our Stop and Search data page for more information.



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