IOPC calls for greater scrutiny of Taser use following increasing concerns

Published: 14 May 2020

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) today called for greater scrutiny on use of Taser following a series of incidents and increasing community concerns in recent months.

Director General Michael Lockwood said the IOPC was aware of concerns from a broad range of stakeholders about disproportionate use of Taser against black people and those with mental ill health.

“The IOPC recognises that the use of Taser is important in helping officers respond to often dangerous and challenging situations. However, more officers are now carrying Taser and there are growing concerns both locally and nationally about its disproportionate use against black men and those with mental health issues.

“Robust oversight of cases involving Taser is essential for maintaining public confidence in the police use of this kind of force. We need transparency around how and when it is used, and a visible demonstration that police forces are learning from their experiences of using it.

“While the IOPC has a role to investigate the most serious matters involving Taser, Police and Crime Commissioners also have an important role in providing community assurance about scrutiny of Taser use.”

Mr Lockwood said while the IOPC was investigating several incidents in London, Manchester and the West Midlands in recent weeks, he had also written to the Deputy Mayors for Policing and Crime and the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner seeking assurance on how they are providing appropriate scrutiny of Taser use at a local level.

“These incidents are being independently investigated by the IOPC and we will seek to understand what happened and whether there are lessons to be learnt. While we can’t comment on the appropriateness of the Taser use in these cases until we’ve completed our investigations, I want to reassure those communities that we take these matters very seriously and will be thorough and impartial in looking at what happened.

“However, I remain concerned that these incidents have caused damage to police and community relations and are impacting on public confidence in police. There must be more research to understand issues of disproportionality as well as assurance and scrutiny of Taser use at a local level – this means oversight, looking at complaints, talking to community members and reviewing this not just when something goes wrong, but 365 days a year. I am urging Deputy Mayors for Policing and Crime, Police and Crime Commissioners and the wider police service to listen and respond to the concerns being raised.

“These incidents have only come to our attention because of the level of injury sustained or via social media. Given the number of times Tasers are deployed, there may be other incidents which are not being scrutinised.”

In the weeks ahead, the IOPC will be talking with community stakeholders, advocacy organisations, PCCs and police forces to understand the different concerns and identify whether further work is needed in this area.

Several recent Taser incidents are under independent investigation or are currently being assessed by the IOPC, including:

  • An independent investigation into contact the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) had with a man before he suffered a life-changing injury in Haringey, north London on Monday 4 May 2020. A man in his 20s was Tasered as he jumped over a wall and has now been assessed as having suffered a life-changing injury.
  • An independent investigation into Greater Manchester Police involvement in an incident in Stretford on Wednesday 6 May at around 11pm in which an officer used a Taser on a suspect outside a petrol station, with the man’s child present nearby.
  • An incident on 6 May where a man was stopped in Southwark (London) for a drugs search and was red dotted with a Taser. A video was widely shared on social media.
  • We are also looking at a matter involving West Midlands Police.

  • Use of force and armed policing