When tasers go … right?

I’m not aware of all the details surrounding the police use of a taser of a man being arrested for suspected grievous bodily harm in Nottingham this week. Neither is Henry Porter.

Yet Henry Porter has written a piece for the Guardian calling for the banning of tasers. He says that the majority of officers on the street are “hot-headed thugs”. He calls for the ban of tasers in the UK.

This is on the back of a YouTube video which Porter says “speaks for itself”. It shows a snippet of a broader incident – it may be a useful handle to hang outrage upon but it is not conclusive proof of anything. Nothing at all. It is not a national news story, it is an incident that needs investigating.

I don’t know who the victim/“drunken reveller”/ aggressor on bail is, he has chosen to remain anonymous. This may be because, as he admits, he doesn’t know the full extent of his actions that night nor their consequences. And why is it that a man accused of greivous bodily harm remains anonymous, yet an officer who wrote an Orwell prize winning blog giving an insight into the work of the police was outed by The Times?

So what does this snippet show? A man, suspected of greivous bodily harm was apparently aggressively resisting arrest, was being forcefully detained. He was tasered. He was punched by an officer in the shoulder. Then more backup arrived.

It doesn’t show the man being tortured by the Metropolitan Police, nor does it show the role of the Met in the G20 protests, in particular the death of Ian Tomlinson. Yet seemingly, a far smaller incident has been bound in with those others, as in The Independent’s coverage. This detracts from their significance and is clumsy at best, mendacious at worse. I don’t know what happened that night. Neither does Mr Porter, nor indeed, Shami Chakrabarti (who has given a cautious statement pending an investigation). Thus, I am not outraged and will not be until I know a little more about it. We should all sit tight and wait for an answer. Of course, the questions should continue – without them conclusions cannot be reached – but this shouldn’t be in the form of pontification on 24 hour news. How does that provide any answer at all?

Questions I would ask:

  1. The man taking the video states “I can’t wait to put this on YouTube”, and a large group of the general public try to see what’s happening – some express concern. Does this video show more about the public’s respect for the police force than the actions of Nottinghamshire police?
  2. Four officers were trying to arrest the suspect. More backup arrives to help restrain him. The police do not rush to every minor crime scene in large numbers, it would appear they had information pertaining the suspect that warranted the use of the taser. The Spectator’s Alex Masie thinks that “no such force was required”.  Was the use of the taser indiscriminate?
  3. YouTube allows videos to spread quickly, it does not provide follow up information nor official statements. It just provides a snippet of this event. It’s great that Trent FM are getting some publicity at a difficult time for local stations. But how should national news media cover this story? Does this bear any relation to the death of a man at the G20 summit or the torture of suspects? What use is showing a video from YouTube and noting that there is little information available? Sky News’s summary was that the police would have to release a statement on the incident. Did this warrant the clip being shown, or is 24 hour news struggling to keep up with the internet?

What do you think? I’m happy to be proven wrong because I don’t know the facts.


One Response to “When tasers go … right?”

  1. davide Says:

    I don’t know how the police operate in Britain, but in America I believe that most departments issue directives on escalation of force. Talking to the suspect is on the extreme of one side while shooting at them is on the other extreme. I would think that tasering is pretty severe, but could be warranted in some situations. It’s definitely more harsh than macing a subject but probably not as bad as clubbing them over the head repeatedly. So I believe it is relegated for use with subjects that cannot be stopped by the less violent methods (talking, holding them down, macing them).

    From the video it didn’t seem like the escalation to taser was warranted. He wasn’t running around flailing his arms at the cops. He was already on the ground. I’m not sure why the police could not have simply put cuffs on him at that point.

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