The plastic bullet is now approved for use throughout Britain. They haven’t been used yet in London, despite David Cameron’s enthusiastic endorsement and encouragement:
Theresa May said police were right not to use rubber or plastic bullets to stop rioters, putting the Home Secretary at odds with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who had sanctioned their use in a speech to Parliament last week. “We risk important public support if we rush to use things such as rubber bullets,” she said in London yesterday.
That underlines Malcolm’s belief that Mrs May is a shrewd operator, and a few steps ahead of her male colleagues.
Things could be about to get far, far worse.
Even if the baton round is approved for crowd control, the Taser stun-gun most definitely is not.
Amnesty opposed the expansion of Taser use in 2007, which meant that their deployment was extended beyond specially trained firearms officers in situations where they faced an armed suspect to the use by any officer who underwent 18 hours of training.
These so called “specially trained units” are now entitled to consider using Tasers to deal with severe violence or threats of violence, to themselves, the public or the individual being arrested.
The use of Tasers by forces differs widely. Between April 2004 and March 2010, Northumbria police, dealing with a population of 1.5 million, has used the weapons 1,054 times. There was controversy last year when the force deployed an X12 Taser in the hunt for Raoul Moat. The Taser has never been authorised by the Home Office and is considered more powerful than the weapons that are authorised – the X26 and M26. The Metropolitan police, which covers a population of 7.2 million, has used tasers 1,173 times in the same period, and Greater Manchester has deployed them 277 times.
Essex Police has defended its use of Tasers against two protesters at the Dale Farm travellers’ site.
Superintendent Trevor Roe of Essex Police said they were used in an isolated incident where, “serious violence was offered to a pair of officers and their response was to protect themselves”.
It seems that Essex Constabulary use the “authorised” X26 Taser (as at the top of this post — thought that is the sold-for-civilian use lower-voltage X26c model).
Home Office statistics suggest what happened at Dale Farm was not standard practice for Essex: in the whole six years to the end of March 2010, the force had discharged a Taser weapon on just 37 occasions. That, of itself, implies senior officers had given prior approval for Tasers to be drawn and ready for use: these are not a shoot-from-the-hip weapon of choice.
Then there is the certainty that the electrical supply for Dale Farm had been cut for the dawn raid. A cancer case on the site lost the use of his nebulizer. Resuscitation equipment was not, it seems, available until the afternoon. Taser use involves a strong possibility of excited delirium:
a term for a phenomenon that manifests as a combination of delirium, psychomotor agitation, anxiety, hallucinations, speech disturbances, disorientation, violent and bizarre behavior, insensitivity to pain, elevated body temperature, and increased strength. Excited delirium is associated with sudden death (usually via cardiac or respiratory arrest) particularly following the use of physical control measures, including police restraint and tasers. Excited delirium most commonly arises in male subjects with a history of serious mental illness and/or acute or chronic drug abuse, particularly stimulant drugs such as cocaine. Alcohol withdrawal or head trauma may also contribute to the condition.
Even the gung-ho Daily Mail sniffs that all this might stretch things:
Police who smashed their way on to Dale Farm were accused of being too eager to use 50,000-volt electric stun guns to bring down protesters.
Witnesses claimed at least two Tasers were fired as officers surged through a fortified metal fence in the dawn raid.
It is believed to be the first time the controversial weapon has been deployed by police when faced with activists, and there were fears that this could mark a worrying escalation of its use in Britain.
One might spot a discrepancy there: the “official” version is the stun-guns were used in extremis and in self-defence. The Mail‘s version, while making it clear that it is second-hand and derivative, suggests that the use was part of a tactical assault. The Mail has a photograph which would seem to support the second version:
The Guardian web-site has a video clip of the same moment.
One thing is certain, and Mrs May should be ready:
Questions must be asked.