The government is being urged to stop the rollout of tasers amid concerns it has led to a “disturbing rise” in its “disproportionate” use against black people and those with mental ill health.
Protests took place in Manchester on Saturday after mobile phone footage widely shared on social media showed an altercation on Wednesday night between a black man and two white police officers at a petrol station, in which the man is tasered to the ground while his young son watches on hysterically screaming “daddy”.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has questioned whether the taser use was “proportionate or justified” and has demanded an urgent review. While Greater Manchester Police has voluntarily referred the matter to the Independence Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
Meanwhile, three police officers are under investigation in London after a man in his twenties was tasered and left with a life-changing injury in Haringey on Monday. The IOPC described the incident as “extremely serious” and said it would consider whether there are any “conduct or criminal matters”.
The IOPC said they understand that the man, who was arrested for drug-related offences, ran off and police officers chased and then tasered him as he jumped over a wall, at which point he fell and suffered serious injuries.
The government announced last September that more than 10,000 extra police officers across the country were to be armed with tasers, with £10m being made available to increase the number of trained and equipped officers.
At the time, ministers were accused of risking an “escalation of violence” by funding more stun guns for bobbies on the beat, with human rights campaigners slamming the announcement as a “knee-jerk” reaction to rising attacks on officers, and warning that it could put public safety at risk.
A coroner's report last month, sparked by the death of 30-year-old father Marc Cole, warned that British police may cause more deaths by tasering people unless action was taken, a coroner has warned.
Campaigners are now urging that the rollout be stopped over fears they are putting people’s lives at risk and could exacerbate the over-policing of minority and marginalised communities.
Deborah Coles, director of charity INQUEST, which supports bereaved people following state related deaths, told The Independent the two recent incidents were “not isolated” and called for an “urgent review of tasers, their disproportionate use and accountability for abuse of force”.
She added: “The disproportionate use of force against black people and those with mental ill health is well evidenced and has led to a pattern of deaths and serious injuries. Racial profiling and discriminatory policing is a systemic issue.
“The rollout of tasers has seen a disturbing rise in its disproportionate use and there are legitimate questions to ask about its safety and its use as a first and not a last resort. A culture of impunity after deaths and serious incidents undermines public confidence in an accountable police force.”
A group of up to 15 people observed Covid-19 social distancing rules as they gathered at a petrol station forecourt in Manchester where the father was tasered in front of his son.
Among the protesters at the event staged by Stand Up to Racism on Saturday were Paul Davidson, a minister at the Church of God of Prophecy, who said: “I am here because this news has outraged black people nationally. We are obviously keen to find out what the details are and whether there are other circumstances we haven't learned from the immediate clip.
“But if the immediate clip is anything to go by then people have questions to answer and we should expect answers as a community. This sort of behaviour should not be expected by anyone in a civilised society.”
The man who was tasered, Desmond Ziggy Mombeyarara, 34, appeared before magistrates on Friday where he admitted a number of offences including speeding, drink driving, failing to stop and unnecessary travel.
In an interview with The Times, Mr Mombeyara said he did not believe such a “magnitude of force” was warranted, and that his son was still in shock and thought that police had shot him.
He told the newspaper: “I was saying to the officers, 'Let us calm the situation for the little one because the little one doesn't feel comfortable'. But they were making out like I was using him as a human shield.”
In response to the taser incident in Haringey, Detective Chief Superintendent Treena Fleming, commander of the Met's north area command unit, said: “My thoughts and well wishes are with the injured man and his family. I have spoken with the man and a family member, and have assured them that I am fully committed to supporting the IOPC investigation.
“All police officers are fully aware that they will be asked to account for their actions - officers are not exempt from the law and we would not wish to be. Three officers have been informed they are under investigation and placed on local restrictions.
“An incident like this is very sad and will naturally provoke commentary and conversations within the local community. I would ask people to allow the independent investigation to take place and report its findings in due course so that the full circumstances can be established.”
Additional reporting by PA
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies