Police in region have one of country's highest levels of Taser discharge, figures show

A police Taser
A police Taser

Police in Greater Manchester who draw Tasers discharge their weapon a sixth of the time, new figures reveal – one of the highest rates in England and Wales.

With the Home Office providing funding for an additional 10,000 officers to carry the weapons, police chiefs and representatives for officers insist Tasers are effective at de-escalating dangerous situations.

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Officers drew their Tasers 1,442 times in 2018-19, the latest Home Office statistics show.

During these incidents, Tasers were discharged on 242 occasions, 17% of the time – much higher than the 11% national average.

The devices, which deliver a high-voltage electric shock, were also used to deter suspects. In 795 cases officers aimed and partially activated the Taser so a red target dot appeared on them.

UK police forces first trialled Tasers in 2003, with a full roll-out completed a decade later.

Officers must decide whether using a Taser is legal, proportionate and necessary in a situation.

Greater Manchester Police’s use of Tasers rose 73% overall last year – in 2017-18 the force reached for them 832 times.

Use of Tasers, also known as conductive energy devices, has now reached a record high across England and Wales.

Forces discharged the weapons on 2,700 occasions in 2018-19, the highest annual number recorded.

During this time, the devices were unholstered in 23,500 incidents – in most cases aimed at suspects without being discharged – up 39% from the previous year.

The Home Office says the rise may reflect police forces dealing with “more incidents with the potential for conflict”, or growing numbers of “CED-trained officers and CEDs available”.

Police Federation vice-chair Ché Donald said: “With the Government and an increased number of chief constables backing a wider roll-out of Taser, it is unsurprising there were more incidents where this tactical option was selected.

“But the fact that the figure for instances where the Taser was drawn but not discharged remains so constant reaffirms how effective it can be in de-escalating situations.

“The red dot alone continues to be enough to diffuse the vast majority of incidents without the need to pull the trigger.”

The figures also show Greater Manchester Police officers used force against suspects on 6,171 occasions in 2018-19.

This includes forcibly handcuffing someone, striking a suspect with a baton or using pepper spray.

Across England and Wales, there were 428,000 recorded incidents in which a police officer used force.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said force “is rarely used” during officers’ day-to-day duties.

“As the public would expect, most forms of restraint used by officers involve the use of handcuffs in order to arrest an individual,” he added.

"It is no surprise that force is often used in cases where the person restrained is drunk or under the influence of drugs as experience shows these suspects can often be the most difficult and dangerous.”