The use of Taser stun guns by police forces in England and Wales reached a record high last year, new figures show.
The weapons were fired on 2,500 occasions between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019, which is thought to be the highest number recorded.
Tasers – which deliver a high-voltage electric shock – were deployed in 23,000 incidents in the 12 months to the end of March, according to the Home Office. But police monitoring group Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) warned that it suspects tasers are used “unlawfully, as a tool of social control rather than a last resort for personal protection”.
In most cases, the devices were aimed at a suspect without being fired.
The deployment figure is up by more than a third on the year to March 2018 and double the 2016 total.
The Home Office is providing funding to allow an extra 10,000 police officers to carry Tasers.
The weapons were first trialled in UK police forces in 2003, and a roll-out to all forces was completed in 2013.
Kevin Blowe, the coordinator of Netpol, told The Canary:
The escalation of Taser use is an inevitable consequence of giving these weapons to more and more officers, rather than simply because of any direct link to increasing violent crime. It is significant that they are often used to demonstrate officers’ capacity to use force. We suspect Tasers are drawn in many instances, unlawfully, as a tool of social control rather than a last resort for personal protection.
Police unions have largely succeeded in lobbying for every officer to have a Taser and this is matched by an increase in the routine deployment of armed officers on Britain’s streets. Regrettably, this is another small step closer to all officers carrying a firearm.
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