Category Archives: Criminal Justice System

Twitter Squad! If you dare to question British police, expect a visit.


Today it emerged that armed police officers in the UK have been bringing their guns along to routine police work causing members of the public to feel threatened. I tweeted today’s BBC story here:

Of course, this tweet is not a criticism of any individual officer, or even police officers in general. It is a criticism of the system which has allowed creeping militarisation of the police in this country. Despite that, I received a barrage of abuse from police tweeters. There were some reasoned comments amongst them but it was mostly abuse, including swearing intended to intimidate or distress me. From police officers.

I have had online abuse from police officers before, of course. Members of Twitter Squad are never brave enough to do it face-to-face. I have been called a “police hater” because I disagreed with deploying water cannon on the UK mainland. Apart from members of Twitter Squad, everyone above the age of 8 knows that just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean they hate you.

Twitter Squad represents a small number of police officers, the rest of whom must be deeply embarrassed by their cretinous behaviour. The specimen in this article, Peter Kirkham, called me the same word he called Theresa May. This is a pattern of behaviour one should never see from a police officer. I think Twitter Squad members, presumably British police officers, committed about 4 communications offences against me today. I have deleted the swear words in a couple more:

Pleb Evans

Along with the swearing, I was accused of “not having a clue” and being an “idiot”, “stupid” and “a toff”!

Twitter Squad is now a threat to anyone who speaks out about policing. They aim for a more authoritarian, oppressive police and should be called out by politicians for their disgraceful cowardly behaviour (like Nick Herbert did in the link above). I’m from Glasgow and I know as many swear words as these brave tweeters in blue but I don’t use them to abuse anyone who disagrees with me. The time has come for chief police officers to act to permit members of the public to discuss policing without having the dogs of Twitter Squad set on them. If they don’t act, politicians should.

Most adults realise that just because I am standing for Parliament does not mean they have permission to abuse me. It is surprising that such a large number of police officers can’t grasp that. I think there is a culture of exceptionalism in British policing. For too long a minority of police officers have believed they are above the law. We have seen outrageous cover-ups of police behaviour and even some sort of police black ops editing of Wikipedia.

Twitter Squad is a disgrace to british policing. They are touchy, abusive louts who only want the police to be more violent and run for their benefit. If the police are the public and the public are the police, we all need to stand up to these thugs.

 

Levels of Trust and Surrey Police


Background

Today I met with Deputy Chief Constable Nick Ephgrave to discuss the recent disciplinary case involving Surrey Police’s Head of Finance, Paul Bundy. Mr Bundy had been dismissed for gross misconduct on 26 November 2013 then reinstated after an appeal on 19 December. Not much more than that was currently in the public domain except that the misconduct consisted of a failure to declare a personal interest and mishandling internal information.

DCC Nick Ephgrave and Richard Wilson

DCC Nick Ephgrave and Richard Wilson

Why was I there?

I have been on record calling for Surrey Police to reveal more details of the case. There were two main reasons I met with DCC Ephgrave this morning.

Firstly, on behalf of the people, the taxpayers, of Surrey. They deserve to know if their public money is being lost. For example, Surrey Police are selling some former police station buildings and no indication had been given whether assets had been sold inappropriately. The public is rightly concerned about protection of their own data. People will have wondered if the data that had been “mishandled” was their personal information. After today’s meeting I can reveal that neither of these events have occurred in this case. The public need to trust Surrey Police to inform them if their interests have been harmed and how. Obviously, Surrey Police was harmed by the misconduct, or there would have been no disciplinary hearing, so in that sense the public interest was harmed.

Secondly, I was there on behalf of the rank and file police officers in Surrey. They have been putting their lives at risk during the recent floods, as they often do to protect us all. They deserve to know that they can trust their leadership team.

Just the facts

DCC Ephgrave was very open and helpful about the case and started by explaining the facts of the case and the procedure. I took some notes to ensure I got it right:

The misconduct took place over several months before the disciplinary hearing on 26 Nov. This was chaired by Commander Adrian Hanstock of the Metropolitan Police. Paul Bundy, whom DCC Ephgrave described as “a member of the chief officer team”, was represented by a lawyer, as is his right.

The hearing found

  1. on the balance of probabilities that the misconduct took place
  2. that it was “gross misconduct” and 
  3. the “sanction” ie punishment should be dismissal

Mr Bundy had 5 working days to appeal, which he did. The appeal hearing took place on 19 Dec and was chaired by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Fiona Taylor also of the Met. It is a requirement for appeals to be chaired by an officer senior to the one who chaired the original hearing. It is not a requirement for it to be chaired by an officer from a different force to the first one, although Cmdr Hanstock does not report to DAC Taylor in the Met.

The appeal hearing found that the original hearing was correct on points 1 & 2 above but overturned point 3. It found that a more appropriate sanction was a final written warning. Mr Bundy was reinstated with immediate effect. Each hearing took two days and, along with the investigation, cost the Force an unspecified large amount of money!
 
It was expected that he would receive his salary for the time he had been wrongly dismissed. It was unclear how much extra was paid to the PCC’s finance manager during the period where he was standing in as finance head. It was unclear to what extent the Force’s financial management had been impaired during this period.
 
Paul Bundy had a previously unblemished employment record. The “interest” which he had failed to declare has now been declared properly. He has not admitted the mishandling of internal information charge but he did not appeal against the hearing’s finding that he did commit this.

…And now for the verdict

Although I have not seen all the confidential documents relating to the case, I am satisfied that DCC Ephgrave, in his capacity as the chief officer responsible for professional standards, has treated this with the appropriate seriousness. I don’t intend to speculate about why the initial sanction of dismissal was overturned on appeal. It would have been better for Surrey Police if the original hearing had come to a decision which was not overturned but that can only be said with hindsight.
 
I believe that Surrey Police were correct to release the fact that Mr Bundy had been dismissed after the original hearing. However, they should have been more specific about the nature of the misconduct. I now know what the misconduct consisted of, broadly, and although it is very serious, if Surrey Police had been more forthcoming initially it would have prevented some of the wilder speculation. I invite them to be publicly more specific now.
 
Rank and file police have a difficult job, sometimes impossibly difficult. They have a right to expect the highest standards from their leadership team. In this case they were let down by one member of it. This sometimes happens in big organisations. The best way to minimise the damage to trust in the Force’s leadership is to be as transparent as possible. Personally, I am not interested in discovering details of anyone’s private life but I think some more information should be in the public domain about this case.


 
This has been a difficult issue for Surrey Police and they have learned lessons from it.

The Police are the Police and the Public are Kept in the Dark


Robert Peel (1788-1850) was the founder of the police force in this country. He set the principles which still govern policing today and aim to ensure it is ethical and works in the interests of the people. Here is one of his most famous quotations:

“The police are the public and the public are the police.”

A few days ago, Surrey Police suddenly announced that they had sacked their head of finance for “gross misconduct”. Paul Bundy’s profile was deleted from their website. The only explanation given to the public was allegations that he hadn’t declared personal interests and had mishandled information.

Surrey Police has an annual budget of £222m and significant assets, some of which, it was recently announced, will be sold off. If any other organisation had sacked such a senior manager for a first offence we would know much more about it. The fact that Surrey Police is a publicly-funded organisation and one which relies on maintaining public confidence makes it even more scandalous that this is being covered up.

Surrey’s taxpayers and residents have a right to know what is happening to the top management of their police force. If this happened in a private sector company, the non-executive directors would represent the shareholders to investigate whether the rot spreads further and if the organisation has been dangerously compromised. Surrey Police doesn’t have non-executive directors, or anyone any more to represent the interests of the public.

Last year, the Tory-LibDem Coalition abolished police authorities and replaced them with elected Police and Crime Commissioners. The Surrey Police Authority contained independent, non-political, non-police experts who could examine sensitive cases like the charges levelled against the head of finance. They could have ensured an inquiry which was independent and seen to be independent. They would not have concealed it from the public solely because it was embarrassing to Surrey Police.

In Surrey, like elsewhere, the Police Commissioner election was a farce. The turnout was tiny and most people don’t even know they have a PCC, never mind what his name is. I can reveal, in Surrey, his name is Kevin Hurley, a former police Chief Superintendent. Interestingly, he stood as “Zero Tolerance, Ex-Chief” on the ballot paper despite never being a Chief Officer in the UK. Since his election he has tied his political reputation to that of Surrey Police. If Surrey Police were embarrassed by revelations about why Bundy was sacked, the political fall-out would damage Hurley. Commissioner Hurley is refusing to comment on the sacking.

Deputy Commissioner Harris tried to divert attention from this story when I was discussing it on Twitter with the Chief Constable:

Trying to divert attention

Harris is another ex-police officer and a friend of Hurley. He is trying to use the fact that brave junior police officers have been injured on duty to divert attention from the goings-on at the top of the organisation. I believe this shows a cynicism and lack of respect for rank and file officers in the Commissioner’s office.

I do not accuse Chief Constable Lynne Owens of this, she always acknowledges the sacrifices of the police officers she leads appropriately. However, she did claim that Mr Bundy’s right of appeal was preventing her from being open with the public:

CC Owens' defence

Chief Constable Owens went on to imply that the public’s interest was represented by using a Chief Officer from another force to hear the case.

police investigate police

Unfortunately, there have been many cases of the police investigating the police and serious irregularities, even crimes, have been covered up. Only someone totally outwith the police and known to be totally impartial can represent the public interest here.

My Offer to Surrey Police

As someone who is clearly, and well-known to be, independent of the police force, I offer to read all of the confidential documents relating to this case and talk to everyone involved. If there is genuine legal opinion that it cannot be made public until an appeal is concluded or ruled out, I will promise not to reveal the details until it is legally appropriate. I will, however, tell the Surrey public whether they have been swindled, conned, lied to, had their personal details leaked, or in any other way failed by the organisation in which they place so much trust. If Surrey Police have handled this case properly, then they will have nothing to fear because I have a record of defending them against unjust criticism.

Why me? I am used to handling responsibility. As an airline captain, I’m responsible for the safety of hundreds of people and my actions are insured for hundreds of millions of pounds. I do not take things like this lightly. Also, I was voted to represent the Labour Party in Guildford at the 2015 general election so I already have an electoral mandate.

Surrey Police desperately need to reestablish the confidence of the people of Surrey after this damaging incident within their top management. If they accept my offer to represent the public in this, they will be living up principles of their founder, Robert Peel.

To protect and to serve – policing in Surrey Heath


I spent an interesting hour and a half today discussing policing in our borough with Detective Inspector Martin Goodwin and Sergeant Julie Hillman. Martin is the borough commander and responsible for neighbourhood policing here. He invited me to his office at the Surrey Heath Borough Council building in Camberley after a public conversation we had on Twitter last night. The police station in Camberley has closed and they now have a couple of desks in the foyer of the council building to serve the public. There are many more staff and police officers upstairs.

The desks in the foyer are manned by people in uniforms but their epaulettes say, “Police Staff” on them, ie they are not police officers.

The borough is split into three areas for neighbourhood policing. Broadly, this means the six villages are one area and the rest is divided by the M3. Approximately 50 people, police staff and officers, report to Martin.

Operation Nemesis II

Surrey Heath is a very low crime area. It has the best Neighbourhood Watch network in the UK. I can vouch for the local police panels and how reassuring they are for the residents who attend them. However, there is drug-related crime even here and local police have been raiding suspected drug dealers in a plan they call Operation Nemesis II. This was reported on in this week’s Camberley News and Mail. A journalist accompanied police on one of their raids on which no drugs were found, a “negative result”.

Now, in this country police can’t just smash into people’s homes on the off-chance that they’re drug dealers so they must have had multiple reasons to suspect drugs were there. They have to convince a magistrate to authorise a search warrant. Despite that, sometimes no drugs are found, like in this case. There is no feedback loop to the magistrates to explain why this is happens in some cases so they never get to find out if no drugs were found because a dealer managed to flush them down the toilet in time or because it was a totally innocent person living there minding their own business.

I had been concerned about police concentrating resources on busting cannabis users and small-time dealers. However, Martin assured me that the aim of Operation Nemesis II is to target class A drugs. I think this is a reasonable aim and he confirmed that many other crimes are associated with class A drugs. Like most people, I want the police to target class A drugs dealers, raiding their homes if necessary, and I’m not surprised if they also find cannabis there. The communications I had read seemed only to mention cannabis and it’s unfortunate that the one raid which was witnessed by the impartial press had a “negative result”.

Martin accepted that rounding up drugs dealers only tackles the supply side of the drugs market and only for a short time. He said that it makes drugs less accessible but addicts will travel outside the borough if necessary to get drugs and may have to shoplift more to afford the petrol to get to London. He told me about how addicts in the borough are dealt with and the assistance they receive to come off drugs. This is clearly the best way to tackle drug crime, in my opinion, attacking the demand side of the market.

From what I could see though, our local police are aware of the drug scene in this borough and are acting broadly appropriately. Intelligence about drugs dealers will always be imprecise but police may have to act on it knowing it might not be correct to protect the public. It is important that they weigh up the risks of this too, of course, and don’t raid private properties without probable cause.

“Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics” - Disraeli (possibly)

We went on to discuss crime statistics. Now, Martin (obviously) did not tell me any lies about this. In fact, everything he told me was the truth (and I believed him). However, he did use a lot of statistics. The police force uses statistics for the numbers of each crime reported in each month to measure how effective they are. I don’t think this is fair on Martin and the Surrey Heath police officers. There are so many variables, other than police activity, which influence how many crimes are recorded in a given area. In a low crime area like here this is especially true. If a prolific burglar is released from prison they might commit a couple of months’ worth of crimes in two days before they can be re-arrested. This would completely skew the statistics and be no fault of the local police. The same month the following year, if this doesn’t happen, recorded crime might be seen to drop x% but again it would be due to the exceptional item not happening rather than more effective policing. Martin’s spreadsheet showed how many of each category of crime was reported in each area of the borough so far this financial year and compared it with last year. Where the number had gone up, the percentage increase was on a red background. Some were up by 100%, some were down by 100%, some were in between. All the numbers were small.

I much prefer to look at qualitative measures of crime, the fear of crime and police effectiveness. There were measures of public confidence in the police and satisfaction numbers for people who had reported anti-social behaviour. I’m happy to report that they are high. I wrote down what the exact percentages are and how they changed over a year but I don’t think that is relevant. Like me, most residents have confidence in Surrey Heath police.

I don’t think looking at year-on-year changes to small numbers of crimes is very useful. Although, they did say that we have about one domestic burglary every two days in the borough and ten years ago it was about two burglaries per day. That is a relevant stat, I think. Crime is low here and, as a resident, that’s how it feels to me. I want it to remain like that and I want our police to remain tolerant, sensible and approachable.

Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime - Tony Blair

We talked about local crime prevention measures too. A lot of thought has gone into this, as I would expect. Regular readers will remember that I witnessed Surrey Police’s Taser training and talked to response officers about their decision making. In neighbourhood policing the scenario is wider and longer. I think experienced officers know what works, for example, to keep fighting to a minimum in Camberley town centre on a Saturday night. I hope they don’t rely on statistics too much and can use their knowledge and experience to keep the crime numbers low here and are not forced to display ‘zero tolerance’ when it is not appropriate.

At the end, we even had a chance to discuss the Red Road and traffic problems like speeding. It’s good to know that our local police team are thinking about this too and realise it is important to residents.

It was great to have the opportunity to talk at length about policing in Surrey Heath. I’m very grateful to Martin and Julie for answering my questions patiently and openly. My message to the top management of Surrey Police is: if your short-term crime stats show an increase in Surrey Heath, do not blame the local police officers, realise that low crime numbers can show wild percentage swings for other reasons, and consider if ‘zero tolerance’ is really appropriate for somewhere like Surrey Heath.

 

Zenith Windows Sales Thugs Target Windlesham


It’s been a year or two since they’ve been round here but the aggressive sales teams from the widely-hated double glazing company Zenith are targeting Windlesham again. I’ve told them to their face, by phone and by email never to contact me but they haven’t kept any record of it. I suspect this is illegal.

Having my photo taken without my permission on my own doorstep by Zenith sales-thug.

Having my photo taken without my permission on my own doorstep by Zenith sales-thug.

Every time they knock on my door I immediately tell them I’m not interested but they never just say, “sorry to bother you then, good-bye”. They hang around on my doorstep for an argument. This time, however, one of them, the leader, got out his mobile phone to take a picture of me. Also, none of them had visible ID and didn’t display it when I asked to see it. They are the worst kind of doorstep predators, rude, aggressive and harassing people on their own doorsteps.

I phoned Surrey Police on 101 and reported it. Unfortunately I didn’t get their car registration number, I’ll make sure I do next time. If these characters have been bothering you too, phone 101 and quote ref P13249030.

Zenith doorstep pest sales thug won't leave when I told him to.

Zenith doorstep pest sales thug won’t leave when I told him to.

Do you know this man? He harasses people on their own doorsteps.

Do you know this man? He harasses people on their own doorsteps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE 22 AUGUST

This has been the most viewed post on the blog over the last week, so obviously people feel strongly about doorstep pests like this one. I’m pleased to say that Zenith’s Operations Director, Peter Gray, has been in touch. I’m not sure if he was prompted by my email or this blog… or Twitter… or the comments I left on Zenith’s facebook page. He started by apologising in this email before we spoke on the phone this morning:

Gray emailMr Gray apologised on the phone and admitted wrongdoing by his staff. He did say that they are self-employed so he couldn’t stop them from knocking on my door again, however. He has heard the account of doorstep interlocutor, although he hasn’t spoken to him personally, and says it is different from mine. He wouldn’t tell me the name of the young man in the photos above but he did say he would tell the police if asked.

Next I phoned Surrey Police on 101 to update them. They have recorded Mr Gray’s contact details but said they won’t phone him to get the name unless Zenith bother me again. I can expect a call from the ‘safer neighbourhood team’, I’m told.

If you’ve been bothered by Zenith Windows door-to-door salespeople, please phone the police and quote ref P13249035. Harassment is a crime and if these commit it enough times Surrey Police will act to stop it.

Crime Wave Hits Surrey Heath


A shocking story on the front page of today’s Camberley News and Mail reveals what many Surrey Heath residents have been suspecting: a massive increase in crime levels in the last few months.

The data is for the first three months of this financial year, and compared with the same period last year:

  • Domestic burglary is up 33%
  • Non-domestic burglary is up 44%
  • Drug offences are up 29%
  • Vehicle crime is up 11%
  • Theft is up 21%

These are appalling statistics and the only way to describe what is happening is to call it what it is: a crime wave.

There have been significant public policy changes in the recent past and it is reasonable to examine whether they have contributed to this disaster.

Firstly, local and national government have removed the safety net for many vulnerable people. Surrey Heath Borough Council has been at the forefront of this, as I have written before. It would not be surprising if these policies have led to more people turning to drugs and therefore acquisitive crime to finance their habit. At the same time, the Tory-LibDem Coalition has slashed police budgets, including Surrey’s.

Secondly, last November Surrey elected its first Police and Crime Commissioner, Kevin Hurley, who stood on the simplistic and populist platform of ‘Zero Tolerance’. By concentrating on being tough with young people and imposing harsh penalties after an offender is caught, have Surrey Police been distracted from crime prevention? Is it a coincidence that our county’s first year without tolerance has started with an unprecedented crime wave? A two-word slogan is no substitute for a coherent community safety programme, which is something we lack.

Between them, SHBC and the PCC, have set the scene for today’s horrific crime wave in Surrey Heath. The residents whose houses and cars are broken into as a result will be the ones who pay the price for their ideologically flawed policies.

Taser: The Shocking Truth


I spent this afternoon as the guest of Surrey Police at their Guildford Headquarters. As regular readers might remember, I was invited by the Chief Constable, Lynne Owens, to observe officers’ training after a discussion on Twitter where I questioned the use of Tasers by British police officers.

Communication with the public is rightly very important for British police forces. In this country, we are policed ‘by consent’. The founder of the police as we know it, Robert Peel, said, “The police are the public and the public are the police.” Policing should not be seen as something done to us, rather as something we are involved in. Police are scrutinised minutely in the media and are always under financial pressure, so it would be understandable if they were defensive or uncommunicative about subjects such as Taser. I’m happy to report that all of the officers I spoke to today were the opposite. They were keen to answer all my questions, to which they listened carefully and communicated in English which I could understand, not police-language (“I was proceeding in a northerly direction on foot, your honour” for example).

I have written previously, elsewhere, about the potential of a police force of professionals, “intellectuals” pejoratively, and how I supported ordinary police officers being able to analyse policing broadly and deeply. I might need to take some of that back now because it is already happening. I spoke to constables who, in the next few days, might be dealing with violent offenders by force in real life who explained analytically how they deal with certain situations, how they comply with procedures and how they prioritise public safety above their own. I wasn’t expecting that.

The Observation

I arrived at Police HQ just before 12.30 and signed in. I was expected and Chief Superintendent Charlie Doyle’s PA, Sandy, quickly appeared in reception to welcome me. At 12.30, the time on my itinerary, Charlie arrived, closely followed by Inspector Andy Grand. The interactions between different ranks in the police is new to me. It is not at all like the army, much more like airline pilots: although in uniform, first names are used and occasionally, “skipper” or “boss”.

There were three observers of today’s training. My companions were Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner, Shiraz Mirza, whose responsibility is Equality and Diversity, and Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Jeff Harris, a former police officer.

The ten trainees were Taser qualified officers on their annual recurrent training and assessment. The required training is set down nationally by ACPO and can be found on page 10-015 here. The part that we watched included exercises in pairs, watched by the other trainees, dealing with scenarios set up by the four instructors. Then each trainee was filmed doing a solo exercise for the pass/fail assessment. Two instructors wore thick protective suits and full helmets to protect them from the Taser projectiles or anything else the trainees might subject them to.

Now, I don’t know if these trainees and instructors were chosen because we were watching but I thought they were all very competent and treated the exercise as real life. Everyone was debriefed in front of the group after the first scenarios in pairs. This reminded me of my simulator checks as an airline pilot. Even if you have a successful conclusion you can be expected to explain why you made the decisions you did. Not all of the trainees passed but given the intensity of the scenarios I could hardly fault any of them. We were warned that ‘inappropriate language’ would be used during the role-playing. There was some swearing by the instructors while simulating offenders or mentally distressed people, but nothing you don’t hear on the Today Programme.

I don’t think the group was hand-picked to give us a good impression because they were all white males. All ten trainees, four instructors, two senior officers and three observers, except Shiraz, were white males.

The X26 Taser, used by Surrey Police. It costs about £1,000 and they have 150 of them. Running costs total £50k pa.

The X26 Taser, used by Surrey Police. It costs about £1,000 and they have 150 of them. Running costs total £50k pa.

Decision Making

The main emphasis of the training was decision making. The Taser itself is a simple, easy-to-use device. At the end, I was given the opportunity to fire a live cartridge, as opposed to the dummy training ones used during the exercise. When the safety catch is removed a red laser target dot appears. This is where the top projectile barb will hit. The lower barb will hit the target below this. The further the target is away, the lower it will hit. The barbs penetrate clothing and stick into the skin beneath. Then a current is passed between them, pulsing 19 times per second and using up to 50,000 volts. A successful hit causes most people involuntarily to collapse to the ground. While the current is applied, the target will remain immobile but could leap back up immediately the 5 second discharge ends. By pressing the trigger again, the target, if still attached, will be incapacitated again.

In scenarios where the officers were threatened by people with knives or crowbars the Tasers were drawn quickly, warnings shouted and they were fired. There were two scenarios where Tasers were not actually fired, although they were drawn. One was where the suspect said he had doused himself in petrol, CS gas was used when he started slashing himself with a knife. The other was when the person threatening the officers dropped his crowbar, although he continued threatening them, they holstered their Tasers and grabbed his arms to handcuff him.

When considering using force, officers have to use the National Decision Making Model. However, this is inevitably based on their perception of the situation at the time. The only officers equipped with Tasers in Surrey are ‘response’ officers. They get called out to deal with 999 calls, for example. I think there is a reasonable expectation that they will be met with violence in doing this. If they did not have Tasers they would use batons, CS spray or police dogs. From what I have seen, the other methods would be more dangerous, even to people with serious health conditions. Many of these officers’ customers are suffering from mental health disorders, some hoping to commit ‘suicide by cop’. Officers in these kinds of situations have to make difficult decisions quickly so it is difficult for me to maintain my opposition to Tasers in this context.

For criminals who are thinking rationally, the Taser could have a deterrent effect. If an officer is pointing a Taser at you, there is only really one option: comply. However, I am concerned about the possibility of an arms race between police and criminals. If criminals know that all officers carry this weapon they will be more likely to attack first. Happily there are no plans, or budget, to extend Tasers beyond the response teams. If a neighbourhood police officer chats to underage youths drinking or causing a nuisance to their neighbours, the presence of a weapon like this would escalate the situation and make them feel forced to comply rather than agreeing because it is the right thing to do. This is my remaining concern.

Reassured but still watchful

From what I saw today, I do not believe Surrey Police officers would deliberately use a Taser in an inappropriate way. Also, although I still believe Tasers are dangerous, for example being shot in the face by a barb, the alternatives when faced by a level of threat justifying its use are worse for the person on the receiving end.

When a Taser is fired a little bit of what looks like confetti is spread on the ground. These tiny discs have the cartridge’s serial number on them. All uses of Tasers are logged and investigated. Whatever the costs pressures in future it is vital that this continues to ensure the approved tactics are always followed. Surrey Police only fired Tasers 18 times last year but they have only been using them for 4 years. As a Surrey citizen I expect every use of Tasers to be justified and in accordance with ACPO policy. Also, I do not want every police officer I see to be armed with a Taser. This would be an escalation and move police further away from the public.

Thank you Surrey Police

Surrey Police took a risk by allowing me to observe their training. All of the officers I met are proud of their role in keeping the rest of us safe. I tried to be polite when I pressed them on challenging questions to do with Tasers and I received only patient polite relevant answers. I liked the throw-away comment from one, “you won’t read that in Sophie Khan’s articles”. It reminded me about how pilots are exasperated when David Learmount comes on Sky News to speculate about a plane crash. I assure you, reader, that I didn’t succumb to Stockholm Syndrome, but I was very impressed by the professionalism and openness of all the officers. In particular, I’m grateful to the officers under assessment for allowing me to watch.

Police find themselves in difficult dangerous positions regularly and like everyone will make mistakes from time to time. If the standard I witnessed today is maintained and Tasers are only deployed as frequently as they now are, then I feel reassured by what I saw.

 

 

Sophia James

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