In the UK, use of a CED does not necessarily mean that electrical discharge is delivered to a person.
Because we recognise that the mere availability of a CED at an incident can help to defuse a situation, we differentiate ‘use’ into seven types
drawing the device in circumstances where any person could reasonably perceive the action as a use of force
sparking of the device, commonly known as ‘arcing’
aiming the device or placing the laser sight red dot onto a subject
firing a device so that the probes are discharged at a subject or animal
application and discharge of a CED in direct contact mode (including three-point contact) and angled drive stun modes
discharged in any other operational circumstances, including an unintentional discharge (sometimes referred to as probe mode).
The first four types of use do not deliver electrical discharge and comprise the majority (currently at 90%) of uses by UK police. (Link to Home Office Use of Force statistics
What is ‘angled drive-stun’?
When CED probes are fired they can make contact with the subject where there is too small a separation. When this happens, incapacitation may not be achieved. At other times, one of the two probes fired from the CED may miss the subject entirely, in which case no electrical circuit is made, the discharge will not be delivered and there will be no incapacitation.
When either of these events happens, angled drive-stun can be used. This is where the officer follows-up the probe shots by pressing the front end of the CED against a part of the body at a suitable distance from the where the probe (or probes) made contact. In this way it becomes possible for incapacitation to be achieved.
So, what is ‘direct contact mode’?
The application of drive stun (also referred to as drive stun) involves using the device in a way which does not cause incapacitation, but merely causes a pain effect.
Using the TASER X26 this can be done either with the cartridge removed or with a used cartridge in place (that is, when probes have already been fired from the cartridge).
Applying drive-stun with the TASER X2 or TASER 7 can be done either by discharging the weapon on contact with the body (and not following up into angled drive stun) or arcing the front of the device against the body.
The use can also leave temporary marks on a person’s skin. These marks can include skin reddening, electrical burns and physical injury from the metal electrodes scraping against the skin.
As the effects of drive stun do not create incapacitation it may therefore not be effective at bringing a violent encounter under control and may also lead to an overall increase in the use of force. Drive-stun is probably the least effective and most complained about use of CED across the world
The UK police do not teach drive-stun as a routine tactical option during training, but it is discussed with officers to understand that this may be an option in emergency situations whilst recognising the potential risks that this use may bring
How do officers make a decision to use CED?
Officers use the National Decision Model (NDM) when arriving at a decision to use force. The NDM is a decision-making model used throughout the police service. It is designed to assist operational officers, planners, advisers and commanders to manage their response to a situation in a reasonable and proportionate way.
It is not only used for making the decisions but for assessing and judging them. It can also be used to improve future decision-making and help to create and refine techniques and methods for many situations.
Officers will look at each individual situation and decide on the most appropriate tactical option that is in line with the law and is proportionate and necessary in the circumstances.
Why use CED at all?
CEDs provide an additional option to resolve situations, including the threat of serious violence, which can come from any section of the public. In certain circumstances the use of CED is more appropriate than other options in resolving dangerous situations safely and with less risk of serious injury. Officers who are trained and equipped with CED must decide on the most reasonable and necessary use of force in the circumstances. The level of force used must be proportionate to achieve the objective and officers are individually accountable in law for the amount of force they use on a person.
The alternatives to CED include a range of other measures such as physical restraint, batons and police dogs. Much will depend upon the circumstances, but CEDs will often be less injurious than resorting to baton strikes or employing a police dog. In the majority of cases involving CED, the mere threat of its use has been enough to defuse a situation and ensure a peaceful resolution of the incident
Why has there been an increase in the numbers of uses of CED?
CED use across the UK has increased due to more officers being trained and more CEDs being deployed on the streets. This expansion has been carried out in a structured way within each force area. The comprehensive training packages, governance and monitoring are in place and the availability of CEDs is documented in each force area’s strategic threat and risk assessment (STRA).
CED deployments across the UK, as well as the training and governance measures in place, are monitored by the National Less-Lethal Weapons Administration, which is led by Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi.
Why does CED use vary greatly from force to force?
Forces deploy CED in response to their threat and risk assessment. This can reflect local variations in the demographics of violent crime and violence towards officers.
Some forces will deploy CED with units that are specifically set up to deal with confrontation. This will mean there is a greater likelihood the CED will be used more frequently than other forces that deploy CED with officers who perform a general duty. What is important is that each use must be justified within the law and supervised within the force itself. If this isn’t happening there are safeguards at a National level that allow this to be investigated further.
How do forces monitor CED use?
Police forces record and monitor all CED use.
Forces have been issued guidance in relation to monitoring CED use and each force is required to:
Have a well identified and experienced single point of contact within force who can represent that force at National meetings.
Have a credible and well-informed CED lead. This person may be the force’s Chief Officer lead with responsibility for less-lethal weapons.
Have knowledge of the police force’s position relative to the National picture
Have protocols to quality assure all CED use forms
Have a knowledge of CED use statistics and be able to identify and initiate action to investigate anomalies
Action response to Freedom of Information Act requests regarding use of CED
Anticipate media interest and have a media strategy reflecting the national position
Have a comprehensive engagement programme to inform communities as it is essential that they are involved
Record complaints correctly - in according with the definition given earlier
Have a flow of information with the national Less-Lethal Weapons secretariat who will act as a critical friend for support and guidance. There are experts within the secretariat.
What happens to someone when a CED is ‘discharged’ on them?
The normal reaction of a person exposed to the electrical discharge of a CED is pain, coupled with the loss of voluntary muscle control which can result in the subject falling to the ground or freezing on the spot. Recovery from these effects should be almost instantaneous once the discharge turns off. As soon as practicable after arrival at the custody suite, all arrested persons who have been subjected to CED discharge must be examined by a specially trained healthcare professional (HCP) working in General Forensic Medicine.
What happens if someone has CED discharged on them more than once?
Sometimes a longer period of CED discharge is needed when a person continues to be violent after the initial discharge. People who have taken illicit stimulant drugs can fall into this category.
CED officers are trained to always use the minimum duration of discharge necessary to bring a violent situation to a close and must ensure that any repetition or extension of a cycle is justified and proportionate in the circumstances. Usually a single five-second discharge is sufficient.
Is it true that after every use of CED the officer must record where on the body it was used?
When new devices are approved for use, officers are required to submit a CED Deployment Form. This form assists in the operational review of new devices and gathers information which can be used to inform training, policy and guidance.
It asks a number of different questions about how the device was used and its effectiveness but also allows for users to indicate on a human shaped figure, probe placement shots.
In the event of any unexpected event occurring during use of the CED, this form allows the police and others, such as the independent medical committee, to begin to explore whether there may be a link between probe position and the event.