Saturday, 28 April 2012

Taser Gun Submission



Readers will recall that on 17th February I published a Blog in which I raised a number of questions relating to the possible issue of Taser guns to the States of Jersey Police. Matters have now moved on and the Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel has sensibly decided to review the possible introduction. My Blog has been added to the very long list of submissions which has been submitted to the Scrutiny Panel.

I am a founder member of the Jersey Human Rights Group ://www.jerseyhumanrights.com  and we had been invited to submit our views and to appear before the Panel. Along with our Secretary Nick Le Cornu we did so this yesterday morning. Prior to our appearance, on behalf of our Group I compiled a report based on our Member's comments and was submitted to the Panel's Clerk, Mike Haden and is published below. 

Dear Mr Haden,

On behalf of the Jersey Human Rights Group I thank the Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel for asking our Group to consider making a formal submission in relation to the proposed importation of Taser Guns.

The following report has been compiled from Member’s comments.

Having discussed the matter among ourselves we felt it would have been helpful for the States Police to meet our Group to discuss the matter and to justify its desire to add Taser Guns to its armoury. To this end an invitation was submitted to the Police Chief asking that he or a representative attend our next meeting which is scheduled for Monday 30th April. To assist members the following additional information was requested.

If you are able to attend I believe it would be helpful if whoever could cover the following issues:

Given the excellent work being carried not only in crime prevention but also in gaining the public's confidence it would be helpful to know whether equipping the police with Tasers would have a detrimental impact. Given that Jersey is a low crime area how can the use of Tasers be justified? Could you provide details of the number of occasions in the past ten years when the Police have been called to deal with incidents in which armed police have been deployed? Also how often have police fired their weapons and what injury was occasioned. 

Again during the past ten years please could you provide details of the number of occasions police have used hand cuffs, drawn their batons and/or used gas or any other objects?

I am sure that there may be other matters that you would wish to impart in support of Tasers and we would look forward to hearing of them and hopefully you will be able to attend on the 30th. 

Although our initial request was acknowledged it took a further two enquiries before it was rejected on the grounds that the Police Chief thought our request should have been addressed to the Home Affairs Minister rather than the Chief Officer direct. We were however advised that the Police Chief and the Home Affairs Minister would be appearing before your Scrutiny Panel on 27th April and it may be helpful if our members attended to hear what was said. The answers to the questions posed in our initial request were not supplied.

We understand that the request for Taser guns is based on the assumption that they are a “less lethal” weapon when dealing with serious violent incidents. However our Group has not been provided with any examples as to what is meant by serious violent incidents.

It is noted that in the latest edition (9) of Scrutiny Matters the Home Affairs Minister is quoted as follows; “I want the States Police to be able to deploy the lowest possible level of response to serious threats to public safety. At present there are situations in which firearms are being deployed where the lower level of Tasers would be much better.” The Minister did not define what he meant by serious threats to public safety.

By coincidence only last week the States Police provided the public with an example of how it responds to an alleged “serious threat to public safety.” It has been reported that an argument broke out among a small group of men which resulted in one man stabbing another man in the face with a screwdriver. Regretfully people have been assaulting each other since the beginning of time and have used a variety of methods to do so. Also for a great many years a variety of forms of police officers have been trained and employed to prevent crime and detect those who break the law.

There will always be threats to public safety but police officers receive training in conflict management and under normal circumstances responding to allegations of assaults should not require a posse of armed police smashing down doors to question a suspect believed to have stabbed someone with a screwdriver. So why was it necessary for an armed police response?

What is worrying is that it was reported that the Police Chief was present and the Home Affairs Minister is on record as saying that the incident justified the need for Taser guns as it would not have required an armed response by the police. The Minister should be asking for evidence of the serious threat to public safety that justified armed officers breaking into a private residence in the first place?

He should also be asking why the armed response was carried out in the presence of the media and were they “tipped off” because it is apparent that the police actions were being witnessed almost at the outset? Also if they were “tipped off” what was the purpose, was it to justify the use of Taser guns?

Jersey can be justly proud of being a low crime area which requires low profile policing by officers who are presumably highly trained which includes conflict management training. We are also aware that some officers are even more highly trained in conflict management to deal with extra ordinary problems. Where was that evidence last week?

It is apparent that the Minister supports an armed response when allegations of assaults are received but is of the belief that it is better for police officers to be armed with Tasers guns because it reduces the potential for someone being shot dead with a bullet than shot dead via electrical voltage.

Such logic is not only nonsense but potentially harmful to any member of the public who might have the misfortune of being mistakenly suspected of carrying out an assault.

Policing is an art and police officers who over re-act to incidents do untold harm to their image and esteem and to public confidence. Policing is also a risk business and from time to time police officers will be confronted with difficult people who challenge their authority. However it is how they overcome those difficulties that will earn the public’s respect.  

As mentioned above the Police Chief rejected the opportunity of discussing the Taser gun issue and given the police action last week it does little for public confidence or for arming police officers with Taser guns. Whilst it is arguable whether Taser guns are less lethal, one must question whether they should form part of the police weaponry in the first place. If there is a belief that Tasers are less harmful than a firearm than are they more likely to be used at the outset of a conflict than as a last resort?

Whilst it is not denied that Taser guns are used by some police forces it should also be noted that some countries do not permit their use and those who do have stringent controls on their use but are often abused.

It is noted that the Scrutiny Panel is reviewing the Human Rights implications of the use of Taser Guns. The Jersey Human Rights Group like Amnesty and other similar organisations have their own views as to possible violations but it would seem that any possible violation may occur following the misuse of the Taser gun rather than its possession.

The Jersey Human Rights Group (JHRG) is concerned about the introduction of Tasers into Jersey because:

·         Tasers clearly weaken the concept that “the police are the public and the public are the police”.

·         The JHRG has no knowledge of the frequency of events in which their use would have been justified, but perceive this to be very low. They would like to see a detailed review of, say, 6 incidents in Jersey in which Tasers could have been used with benefit.

·       The JHRG regards peaceful conflict resolution as the first priority and is concerned that the police may, quite quickly, see Tasers as a quick and easy alternative.

·       The cost of the Tasers and of the training in their use will be material and the JHRG would like to see the business case for that expenditure.

·         The JHRG thinks that it is likely that more training in peaceful conflict resolution might well generate a higher return.

Yours sincerely,

F. J. (Bob) Hill, BEM
Member of the Jersey Human Rights Group.
26th April 2012

                                    *******************************************************
As one can see that last week armed police had turned out in a manner which might be a regular occurrence in New Jersey, USA but hopefully not so in Jersey in the Channel Isles. 

I am not aware of the information received by the Police before taking what appeared to be a heavy handed response but hopefully we shall learn more when an answer is given to a question being asked by Deputy Gerard Baudains at the States Sitting next Tuesday when he asks the following question of the Minister for Home Affairs – 

"Does the Minister believe that the recent deployment by the States of Jersey Police of semi-automatic rifles on the streets of St. Helier was an appropriate reaction to the incident and does he stand by his statement that this incident reinforced the need for the Police to be provided with Tasers?”

As a former police officer I am well aware of the difficulties and challenges that police officers have to face. I am also aware that they are servants and guardians of the general public and the origins of modern policing has its roots in Robert Peel's belief that police officers should be unarmed custodians of the peace.

As mentioned in my previous Blog every article of armoury that the police possess is a step away from the public, is the issue of Taser guns just another such step? What is now known is that the States of Jersey Police has never fired a shot in an authorised firearms deployment but incidents have involved the pointing of the firearms at suspects. That is a proud record and the Police are to be congratulated. However it is argued that a Taser guns should be issued as they are "less lethal" (but they are still lethal). If the police have never fired a shot in anger will that proud record stand if officers are armed with Taser Guns who may be of the belief that they are less lethal?

Having listened to the States Police when they appeared before the Scrutiny Panel yesterday afternoon it is apparent that now that the bar has been lowered therefore it is likely that there will be more occasions when armed police are deployed in Jersey; such a prospect is depressing for Island which is prides itself as a low crime area.

Along with fellow Human Rights Members I have no wish to put police officers at risk, but I will have to be convinced that arming them with Taser guns will reduce that risk or enhance their image.

Last week I flew to London to attend a re-union for former officers who served at Leman Street Police Station which was situated in what was Stepney E1.Our "patch” included Whitechapel, Wapping, Shadwell, the Pool of London and the Tower of London. I served there from April 1961 to July 1969. Prior to my posting I had attended Hendon Policing Training School where on our first night we had to read the following extracts from the Police Training Instruction Book. The wise words were intended to remain to the forefront of our thinking for the rest of our careers.

The Primary Objects;
 "The primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime: the next that of detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed. To these ends all the efforts of police must be directed. The protection of life and property, the preservation of public tranquillity, and the absence of crime, will alone prove whether those efforts have been successful and whether the objects for which the police were appointed have been attained." (Sir Richard Mayne, 1829.)

Attitude to public;
In attaining these objects, much depends on the approval and co-operation of the public, and these have always been determined by the degree of esteem and respect in which the police are held. Therefore every member of the Force must remember that it is his duty to protect and help members of the public, no less than to bring offenders to justice. Consequently, while prompt to prevent crime and arrest criminals, he must look on himself as the servant and guardian of the general public and treat all law-abiding citizens, irrespective of their race, colour, creed or social position, with unfailing patience and courtesy.

Tact and good humour;
 By the use of tact and good humour the public can normally be induced to comply with directions and thus the necessity for using force, with its possible public disapproval, is avoided. He who in this way secures the object he has in view is a more useful police officer than his comrade who, relying too much on the assertion of his authority, runs the risk of seeing that authority challenged and possibly, for the time being, overborne. If, however, persuasion, advice or warning is found to be ineffective, a resort to force may become necessary, as it is imperative that a police officer being required to take action shall act with the firmness necessary to render it effective.

The words above were written many years ago, but I bet the author did not envisage that police officers would require Taser Guns to be effective? But then again I suppose we call that progress.


17 comments:

  1. "Given the excellent work being carried not only in crime prevention but also in gaining the public's confidence it would be helpful to know whether equipping the police with Tasers would have a detrimental impact."


    The latter should be of major concern.

    Given the insular nature of Jersey it probably won't take very much in the way of misuse of a Taser to create a seriously negative "them and us" perception from islanders towards the Police.

    I have no problem with Tasers being stored in the Police armoury for use in specific incidents, but I believe to have them issued routinely to patrolling officers risks creating not only a public relations disaster for the Police, but worse, causing routine incidents to blow up into bigger problems of public disorder. Can you imagine the possible response of a drunken crowd outside of a nightclub if they see someone being Tasered whom they don't believe deserves it?

    Many times before I've seen that situation arise without Tasers, drunken disorder being one of the more common problems dealt with by the Police in Jersey, but its usually never gone further than some angry shouting from the aggrieved bystanders with the firm threat of arrest ultimately being enough to stifle matters. Introduce a Taser into the equation and a risk develops of escalating that same situation to a much higher level because of the sheer emotional shock and impact of seeing and hearing someone being electrocuted in front of you.

    For those who would argue misuse would never happen, or is extremely unlikely to happen, I would say one only need look at the complaints already made regarding misuse of CS spray in the island. In one case the JEP reported a Police Officer being caught on film, reaching round from behind to spray in the face someone using a mobile phone. If a minority of Police Officers can't be trusted to use CS spray responsibly it would be naive to assume the case will be any different with Tasers, which despite being claimed as "none lethal" have killed in a number of cases worldwide.

    One incident of misuse (or perceived misuse) the public of Jersey may tolerate. Two, they may not. Three they certainly won't.

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  2. Thank you for your comment, to be fair to the police it is not suggested that Taser guns will be issued to patrolling officers, however that was said when the issue of handcuffs and sprays was on the agenda some years ago. Both are now in general use. If there is no justification for the weapons than consent should not be given in the first place.

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  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4z-G0ExRN8

    500 People tasered to death as reported by Russia Today...

    Many of the issues you raised have been raised in the US by a human rights group.

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  4. Thanks for the short video report which I think was an American and not a Russian Report however it throws up some more concerns. What I thought was pertinent was how close the police officers were to the alleged offenders when the Tasers were fired and none of whom appeared to be threatening. The video also shows the immediate pain inflicted on the people. It is acceptable for police officers to render reasonable force to protect themselves, what would have been the public's re-action had the officers hit the people in the video repeatedly with truncheons?

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  5. Thanks for the video link above, it will make it easier to access the site.

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  6. The video link demonstrates the abuse of these taser guns carried out by the police. shooting one person to death (19 shots). A comment on the video tells us 703 people in America have been killed by tasers since 2001. Jersey police turn up armed to the eyeballs for a guy with a screwdriver and Ian Le Marquand wants to give this lot a load of taser guns?

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  7. Had uncle in Jersey Police 50/60's truncheon.whistle & nothing else!!
    He survived, & knives & guns were in use in those days as well by the criminal fraternity,what has changed so much to warrant the amount of products they need today even have radios to call for fast assistance that they did not have then!!

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  8. A valid point to consider is the unrecognised misuse of tasters by the police. Especially so when we see the many recorded incidents of a taser being used as an instrument for exacting torturous revenge when put into the hands of an abusive police officer.

    Unfortunately, the current power hungry Police chief, who doesn’t know the difference between a Statute and Law or what is legal from what is Lawful, should be considered as no more than a very dangerous imported agent of change that has been parachuted into our Island society – he works for the elite Banksters and 'periwiged' criminals operating between Fleet Street and the Thames Embankment who wish to ensure that we are brought into line and controlled in Jersey by a fully functioning established Police State.

    And what is really sad about this matter, is the fact that this psychopathic request for tasers is supported and overseen by an outright moronic mealy mouthed Minister who stood up in the States of Jersey Assembly (9/12/09) and declared that it was perfectly alright for the police to break the Law! – and not one of our other elected representatives even noticed or had the intelligence to say anything to correct this imbecile.

    More than 500 recorded deaths have been attributed to the use of Tasers, not to mention the many recorded and ‘unrecorded’ incidents of flat out abuse by police officers when armed and empowered with such. just think about it for a moment – tasters in the hands of our local keystone cops, you know, the like of those overpaid idiots that bugged a car in France without a French warrant and then tried to enter illegally obtained evidence into the Royal Court!

    But of course these power hungry legal psychopaths will argue before the Women’s Institute, as evidenced the other evening in St Peter, saying that the police need all these extra powers and wepons in order to keep us safe and free. But, free from what? Oh, the terrorist boogyman of course.

    These kind of policemen actually love to see petty crime flourish and turned into and reported in the bought off media as major life threatening incidences solely in order to frighten the struggling taxpayer into giving them a bigger budget and more power to intrude upon our inherent freedoms.

    So take a breath and consider this; THOSE WHO ARE WILLING TO GIVE UP ANY OF THEIR FREEDOMS AND INHERENT RIGHTS FOR THE SAKE OF ‘FEELING’ SAFE, DO NOT DESERVE ANY FREEDOM AT ALL!

    When you see evil, confront it! Force it out into the light, less it lie undisturbed until it can stealthily attack you in the dark where none will see or come to your aid, until it is too late!

    Just in case these psychopaths who are trying to introduce tasters and God knows what else into our relitivity quiet community, ever gets to read this far, let them consider this, that there are still many native Jerseymen alive on this Island who can see right through an imported, UK carpetbagger driven agenda when they see one, and believe me they certainly saw this one the day it arrived!

    But more importantly and before anyone gets too carried away and side tracked on the topic of Tasers, let’s first have a talk about a wholly independent, publicly elected, Police Oversight Commission with full subpoena powers to investigate and hold accountable all police activities and procedures, including ongoing investigations – we need protection from the protectors!

    Red Lion

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  9. Dear Red Lion,

    Strong stuff indeed, you might consider submitting your comments to the Scrutiny Panel.

    P182/2011 was lodged last November, that proposition is seeking States Approval to establish the long awaited Police Authority, it is down for debate on 15th May. I was a member of a small group which was appointed to assist the Minister to draft the Law, proposition and report. What is being proposing is a step in the right direction albeit a two step approach because the Honorary Police will not be within the Authority's remit. This is a shame because it is a variation from the Clothier recommendation.

    Whether the Authority will be strong enough to ensure that the States Police is truly accountable to it is something that time will only tell.

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  10. SSTAG says
    The first AGM of SSTAG - Social Security and Tenants' Action Group - will be at the St Pauls Centre, St Helier from 6.45pm on Thursday 10 May
    After electing the committee there will be a general discussion and all are welcome
    sstagjsy.blogspot.com
    for more information

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  11. Bob,

    Thank you for accepting my comment. It might interest your readers to know that the JEP (the local in-house journal) refused to post it on their website forum, which may pose a question or two concerning their editorial bias if not integrity. But then we all know the media is controlled by the very powers who want a police state in order to remain in control of the 'money supply'. Unfortunately very few people can or even want to understand the monetary debt system while enslaved and dependent on its favours, until it is too late and wake up to find themselves deprived of all property with their children homeless on the land their fathers conquered..

    Thank you for your suggestion regarding P182/2011. I will submit my cry in the wilderness to the Scrutiny Panel, even though I don't believe that they are up to the job and or really understand what they are up against. In the end, but for a miracle, the result will be no more than a watered down piece of window dressing that will never do the job..

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  12. Jersey is a small island with small crime and small problems. If they can make a convincing case for Tasers in Jersey, Sark should have them as well.

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  13. Anonymous at May 2 05:05. Just for you Jersey today Yesterday's issue linked to this very blog story.

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  14. I think Jersey police should be allowed to carry Tasers. As long as a police officer is trained I think they all should be able to use Tasers. They are excellent. It allows the officer to stop a suspect without hurting the suspect.

    http://www.absolutesecuritystore.com/best-tasers.html

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  15. Hi Frankie,

    Thanks for your comment and I note that you are from Memphis where I am pretty certain life is a lot different from Jersey where there is pretty tight control on gun licences. I am sure that Tasers may well be excellent but I suspect that being hit by a Taser will hurt and indeed some people have died as a result of being hit.

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  16. thanks for sharing.

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