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Taser Use At Point-Blank Range Concerns IPCC
A police watchdog has raised major concerns over officers using tasers at point-blank range in what is "purely a means of pain compliance".
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found the highly controversial tactic is still being used, despite police no longer being taught the technique.
Last year, Tasers were used 287 times in so-called "drive stun" mode, when the weapon without a cartridge is held directly against the body, out of a total of 1,733 occasions where the weapons were fired.
IPCC Commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone said: "The IPCC has major concerns about the use of Tasers in drive stun mode, where the Taser is applied directly to the body without a cartridge rather than fired from a distance.
"When used in this way it is purely a means of pain compliance. Yet in several of the cases we reviewed, where it was used for the purpose of gaining compliance, it had the opposite effect, stimulating further resistance."
A total of 15 complaints were made about the drive stun cases last year.
The IPCC report said: "Consideration should be given to the fact that although cartridge-off drive stun is no longer included in training, it is still being used. It is important to ensure that it is not used solely as a pain compliance tool."
Taser use has risen markedly in recent years from 3,128 times in 2009 up to 10,380 in 2013.
Figures released by the IPCC reveal marked differences in the number of times the weapons were used, relative to the size of the force.
In Staffordshire they were used 33 times per 100 officers in 2013, in Humberside 25 and in Lincolnshire 23.
But in Dyfed Powys and City of London forces they were only used twice per 100 officers, while for the Met it was only seven despite being the country's biggest force.
In its review of Taser use since 2004, the IPCC also raised concerns about the weapons being used on suspects who were already in custody, young people and those with mental health problems.
IPCC Commissioner Cindy Butts said there are legitimate reasons for police using Tasers.
She added: "However, in light of the significant increase in Taser use, it is important to ensure that the device is being used appropriately and not as a default choice where other tactical options, including communication, could be effective."
National policing lead for Taser, Commander Neil Basu said: "The IPCC rightly identify that police do not teach the use of drive stun with the cartridge off. However, it cannot be completely removed from training as there may be emergency circumstances where it is needed.
"It is also acknowledged that angled drive stun, which is a viable tactic, is sometimes confused by officers and other people as a drive stun.
"This can lead to reports being made under the title of drive stun when they should be angled drive stun.
"We anticipate that instances of drive stun will reduce significantly over the coming months and years."