A Taser is a less-lethal single shot weapon designed to temporarily incapacitate a suspect through the use of an electrical current. It is a hand-held weapon similar in shape and size to a pistol, but is bright yellow in colour.
The X26 Taser, used by trained Derbyshire officers, uses an electrical current which interferes with the body’s neuromuscular system. It allows officers to deal with violent or potentially violent people at a distance.
Taser is usually held in a holster on an officer’s weak side. It is clearly visible, being yellow and black, designed to stand out and be identified as a Taser.
Common Taser-related terms are:
- Drawing the Taser - If a Taser is drawn from its holster as a use of force option, the officer drawing the Taser must report the fact they have drawn it from the holster and provide a rationale for doing so.
- Aim - The Taser has the ability to be aimed like a pistol using the rear and fore sights on the Taser.
- Red dot - The Taser has a laser sighting system which allows the officer to mark the subject with a red dot. This has the advantage of letting the officer know they are on target and also letting the suspect know that they have been targeted.
- ‘Arcing’ - This is where Taser is used as a deterrent which provides a
further option, particularly when dealing with the vulnerable or people with
language barriers to deter a them from a course of action. This is achieved when the officer squeezes the trigger without the cartridge attached and the electric current flows between the two contacts at the end of the Taser. An audible and visual display of electricity crackling across the two contacts can be seen and heard.
- ‘Angled Drive Stun’ - Taser is designed to safely incapacitate a person at distance, sometimes distance cannot be achieved due to the subject being tooclose to the police officer. On some of these occasions it will be appropriate for an officer to incapacitate the subject by carrying out an angled drive stun.This involves activating the loaded Taser close to the subject’s body and then placing the Taser against another part of their body with a large muscle mass to create Neural Muscular Incapacitation (NMI).
- Cartridges - These contain a pair of wires with probes attached that carry the electric current to the subject’s body. The cartridge is clipped on to the front of the Taser. The Taser works by delivering an electrical charge to the body.
Taser works on two levels - Psychological and physiological
Psychological - Taser stands out, it is yellow and black. The laser sight allows the officer to accurately aim the Taser as well as giving a clear warning to the subject that the Taser has been aimed at them (Red Dot). Publicity through the press and on social media has meant that most people are now aware of the effects of Taser the mere presence of Taser at an incident will often mean that the incident can be resolved without the need to discharge the weapon. In the vast majority of cases it is not necessary to discharge the Taser, its presence alone is enough to bring the situation to a safe resolution without the need for any further force to be used.
All uses of Taser are reported to the Home Office in great detail, including the rationale for the officers decision to use Taser. Any use on individuals under the age of 18 or those who are vulnerable, receives a greater level of scrutiny which, may include investigation by the forces Professional Standards department or the IPCC.
Physiological - When fired Taser delivers a sequence of very short high voltage pulses that result in the loss of voluntary muscle control causing the subject to fall to the ground or freeze. In the X26 the voltage peaks at 50,000 volts and when it reaches the body it is substantially less. The volts are responsible for delivering the amps. Taser runs off 0.0021 amps at average performance.
When Taser, or any other force is used on an individual, a police officer will always have to justify their actions as being necessary and proportionate under the Law.
All uses of Taser are reported to the Home Office in great detail, including those where young people are involved.