Why is CED used on people who are mentally ill or who are vulnerable?
CEDs are used in incidents involving the potential for conflict. Police have a duty to de-escalate events to try to stop situations from turning violent to protect the public and themselves.
On over 80% of occasions when officers are presented with violence or potential violence, the mere presence of the CED is enough to bring that situation to a swift conclusion without the need for physical force to be used.
In such dynamic situations, officers aren’t always going to know the person’s background or medical history. It is in these instances that officers use their experience and training to make a decision on what use of force option to adopt, if necessary.
If immediate action is needed and a CED is discharged, once the individual is under control, officers will make sure the individual is given immediate medical attention if needed, which includes hospital transfer if necessary. The priority is to reduce the risk the person presents with the least intrusive options.
What happens if someone is on drugs when CED is used on them?
Drug use, including excessive alcohol use, is a common cause of violent, dangerous and unpredictable behaviour, and CEDs can be a useful tool in safely subduing intoxicated people who might otherwise be difficult to control.
Other more traditional restraint methods can lead to injury to both the person and officers. If a person is severely intoxicated, their response to CED discharge or, indeed, any other use of force, may be different from someone who is not so intoxicated.
Irrespective of which type of force is used on a person, if officers become concerned with a person’s welfare they will treat it as a medical emergency, which may include immediate transfer to hospital, if necessary.
What happens if someone with a heart problem or other medical condition has a CED used on them?
Officers won’t always know the people they are faced with or be aware of their medical history. The officers still have to deal with the circumstances presented to them. Some people who are violent may have a condition that they themselves are unaware of.
What is important is that the officer deals with any threat in a proportionate manner and only uses the type and degree of force that is necessary in the circumstances. if officers become concerned with a person’s welfare they will treat it as a medical emergency, which may include immediate transfer to hospital, if necessary.
Can CED be used on children?
The use of Taser on children under 18 has always been a contentious and emotive issue. The use of Taser on children has always polarised opinions and causes deep concern to some in our communities.
There is no lower or upper limit on the age of the person that CED can be used upon. However, officers are taught that there may be an increased risk of cardiac arrhythmia and probe dart penetration in children and thin adults.
Between 2020 and 2021 there were 3,500 proven knife and offensive weapon offences committed by a person under the age of 18. During this same period there were 2,591 recorded uses of Taser, of which 123 were recorded as discharges, on people perceived to be under the age of 18.
To increase transparency and to demonstrate our understanding of community concerns, we are currently supporting the IOPC’s request that all complaints and recordable conduct matters involving a Taser discharge on a person under the age of 18 are referred to them for a 6-month period along with a further analysis of all Taser discharges involving under 18s by the LLW Administration.
Why are CEDs used in custody areas?
Custody areas can be volatile and dangerous places. They are often places where the reason for the arrest becomes more evident following searches and the exposure of drugs and other incriminating items. This can lead to violent behaviour. In such a situation, the police will need to respond to the violence confronting them. There is no way of knowing if, or when, such a situation will arise.
It is not acceptable for an officer to use a CED to facilitate a procedure (for example, to force a passively resisting detainee to give their fingerprints). If the detainee in this situation becomes violent, however, the use of a CED may then be justified. In the fingerprint example, the procedure in effect becomes suspended while the violent incident is dealt with. Once the situation has been bought under control, the process of taking fingerprints may resume. Most custody areas are covered by CCTV, which provides another layer of accountability
Why have CEDs got a bad reputation when police say it’s so good?
This is a complex question. Other countries have deployed CED in circumstances that some may see as questionable. This has resulted in negative press coverage and public concern has been raised through human rights groups such as Amnesty International.
There is no doubt that, internationally, a number of deaths have occurred in association with CED use. However, the role that the CED played in these deaths is often disputed, with coroners citing serious underlying medical conditions, drug use, or other force used by the police as being causal or contributory to the deaths.
When dealing with violent people, the police recognise that many types of force carry risk, and these include physical restraint, baton strikes, impact rounds, police dogs and irritant sprays, as well as the CED. Nevertheless, perhaps partly because the CED works ‘mysteriously’ by injecting electrical pulses into the body, the device has become highly controversial.
CEDs offer the police a means of bringing a situation under control from a safe distance. In the main, the effect of CEDs is more consistent and predictable than many other types of force that the police might need to use. It is for these reasons that the police find the CED a useful option to have.
CEDs have been called '50,000 volt stun guns'. Are people shocked with 50,000 volts?
It is true that CEDs generate 50,000 volts to produce the spark discharge (known as ‘arcing’) across the electrodes at the front of the device. This high voltage is also required for the passage of electricity across the air gap between the CED probes and the skin when the probes are caught in clothing. However, once the electricity contacts the body, the voltage drops to about 1,500 volts.
The TASER X2 produces less electricity than the TASER X26 (amps and voltage) and has the ability to lower the quantity of electricity if there is a good connection.
1,500 volts is still a high voltage. Why doesn’t this harm people?
The reason 1,500 volts does not injure people is because it is delivered in extremely short pulses, with each pulse lasting about 1/10,000th of a second. This is similar to the static shock you might experience touching a metal tap on a dry day after walking across a carpet; even though voltages can be as high as 20,000 volts, the static shock does not injure because of its extremely brief duration.
The extremely short 1,500-volt CED pulses are not to be confused with the continuous 240 volt mains electricity voltage, which may be fatal.
How can police be confident that the right amount of current comes out of a CED?
The manufacturer carries out thorough tests on all of its CEDs, which are guaranteed by an internationally recognised quality assurance body to ensure they meet operational specifications before they are supplied.
CEDs are also regularly checked to ensure they are functioning correctly including the mandatory requirement to carry out a function check prior to a device being issued operationally.
There has been some concern about CEDs being used on the chest. Why do police aim there?
A CED does not work by electrocuting people, rather they cause incapacitation by stimulating nerves which, in turn, make muscles contract. Due to this, the CED is most effective when it is targeted at large muscle groups, such as the back, thighs, abdomen and buttocks. These muscles are also largely responsible for posture so can be more effective at stopping a subject posing a threat to the public or police.
As is often the case with policing, an individual posing a threat is unlikely to stand still and allow a police officer the choice over where the CED is aimed. Things can change rapidly in dynamic events such as these. The situation is further complicated by the need to avoid sensitive areas of the body, for example the eyes, face, neck and groin. If a violent individual attacks an officer face-on, then the reality is that the only area that the officer may be able to hit with the CED probes, while at the same time avoiding sensitive areas, is the chest.
Officers are not trained to aim at the chest as this is thought to less effective than other areas of the body due to the smaller muscles which are not involved in regulating posture. However, the operational reality is that, where a subject is rapidly closing down on an officer and posing a threat to the officer or the public, the narrow window of opportunity may mean that the chest area is all they can see and, therefore, aim at.
No use of force is risk free, but the alternatives to CED, when an individual poses a serious threat, include physical restraint, batons, police dogs, impact rounds and, in rare situations, lethal firearms. These alternatives can have a much more long-term impact on someone compared with a CED, the effects of which last only for the duration of the discharge.
CEDs have killed people. How can you say it is safe?
All use of force carries risk and the use of CEDs are closely monitored. No other use of force option has this level of monitoring and scrutiny.
The introduction of CED into UK policing follows a comprehensive review and study by an independent medical committee (the Scientific Advisory Committee on the Medical Implications of Less-Lethal Weapons, or SACMILL).
Medical implications associated with use of CEDs are closely monitored by an independent panel of medical and lay advisers who also monitor learning from across the world. This enables continuous review of the guidance to ensure that it remains fit for purpose.
Since its introduction in the UK to date there has been one recorded case where the administration of CED discharge by police has been deemed to be causal in the death and five where it was a contributory factor. At one recent inquest the jury failed to reach a conclusion and it is understood that a new inquest is to be arranged.
Risks are reduced as far as possible by robust training, governance, engaging with communities and learning lessons by monitoring of use and sharing knowledge.
For more than fifteen years, CEDs have been successfully and safely used thousands of times in the UK to protect the public and officers.