Stop Taser Torture, Blogging for Justice

Today I am joining a group of fellow bloggers to blog for justice and the end of taser torture by the police.

The use of tasers by the police that have caused injury or death appear to be on the increase in the United States. One of the organizers of today’s blogging for justice, AAPP (this is the brother that took me to the Democratic National Convention to see Obama get nominated to run for President of the United States, as part of his accredited blogging team), told me that the use of tasers by the police has been suspended in France. Perhaps the US will follow suit.

Here are the details as reported by Expatica:

French court suspended Taser use for local cops

The state council ruled out the use of Taser guns by French local police officers because they had been rolled out without proper training and safeguards.

Paris – A French court Wednesday suspended the use of Taser stun guns for local police, after ruling they had been rolled out last year without proper training and safeguards.

The state council, the highest court of appeal, struck down a September 2008 government decree allowing France’s 20,000 local police officers to carry Taser guns.

Municipal officers joined 4,600 national police and gendarmes who already use the weapon, which packs a 50,000-volt punch that can paralyse targets from up to 10 yards (meters) away, and is intended as an alternative to handguns.

In practice, a few dozen local police stations had started to arm officers with the guns.

But the court, responding to a suit filed by the RAIDH rights group, found that the government had green-lighted use of the Taser without putting in place proper training and evaluation mechanisms.

“The specificities of this new type of weapon require its use to be closely controlled and monitored,” said the court ruling.

“That has been the case for its use by national police officers. Short of a similar and sufficiently precise system for local police officers, the decree allowing them to be equipped is cancelled.”

Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said the government would draw up a new decree incorporating the training requirements for local police.

To date, 4,615 Tasers have been issued to France’s national police and gendarme force. They were used 280 times in 2007 without causing serious injury, cutting handgun use by 15 percent, according to police chiefs.

Many officials see the Taser as a safer alternative to the handgun, which local officers have been authorised to carry since 2000.

But human rights activists have criticized Taser guns, challenging manufacturer claims that they are safe and non-lethal.

A December 2008 report from Amnesty International said 334 people had died after being shocked by Tasers between 2001 and August 2008.

But while the French have ceased and desisted, Guernsey is figthing to keep importing tasers. I came across this bit of taser news from the Channel Islands as reported on the BBC:

Talks over police Taser supplies

A UK ministry says it is working with Guernsey to help ensure the island’s police have stun gun supplies.

Police may have to abandon Tasers because the UK will not allow more guns or ammunition to be imported.

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said stun guns could not be exported outside the European Union as they could be used for torture.

The UK Ministry of Justice said it was working to help Guernsey put arguments forward to appropriate UK ministers.

‘Difficult predicament’

The Taser device fires two darts with a five-second 50,000-volt charge which temporarily disables a suspect.

Its ammunition comprises of a single-use cartridge which includes compressed air propellant for the two darts and the darts themselves. The cartridge has to be replaced every time the weapon is fired.

Guernsey’s Home Department acquired its equipment in 2006. But as a Crown Dependency, the Channel Islands are not part of the UK.

They are also outside of the European Union, which is why the FCO has ruled that the island cannot buy more shock weapon supplies from the UK – or from another country because that would also require a licence from the UK authorities.

Guernsey Police said it was a “very difficult predicament” and Home Minister Geoff Mahy said he would write to the UK government asking if the islands could be looked at as a “special case”.

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for the relationship between the Crown Dependencies and the UK.

It said it was continuing to work with other UK departments to ensure the Channel Islands could put their arguments before appropriate ministers and have them fully considered.

Also see Torture Laws Stop Taser Supply

I’m not sure if police can still use tasers on children in the UK, but in a disturbing trend taser use is on the rise in the UK, as reported in the Independent:

Police Taser use ‘up nearly a third’

Police use of Taser stun guns has increased by nearly a third, figures revealed today (17 August 2009). Officers fired the electro-shock weapons 226 times in the first three months of this year – up from 174 in the last three months of 2008.

The sharp rise followed the decision to allow forces in England and Wales to give Tasers to officers who do not carry traditional firearms.

Critics said the 50,000-volt guns were in danger of becoming “standard issue”.

But Police Minister David Hanson said the weapons helped save lives by defusing dangerous situations.

He said: “I am determined to give police all the tools they need to crack down on violent crime.

“Tasers are a vital tool for our frontline officers and that is why we allowed forces to issue them to specially-trained units.

“They are making a real difference on our streets and helping to keep both the public and our police officers safe.

“Tasers have helped defuse dangerous situations where people could have been seriously injured or even killed.

“And often just the threat of the device is enough. On many occasions, drawing or aiming a Taser has proved enough of a deterrent.”

But Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Tom Brake said: “Tasers should be for a few specially trained officers, not standard issue.

“The Government has put large numbers of Tasers in the hands of police officers without any debate.

“Given the increase in Taser use and the fact they have killed hundreds of people in the United States, we must have a full public debate before we slip any further down the slope to fully armed US-style policing.”

If you know about police forces in Europe who are using tasers let us know in the comments section for this post.