The death of Dalian Atkinson has raised concerns over the issue of Taser use by the police
Since 1999 stop and search amongst black people has risen more than 120%, while amongst white people it has risen 7%.
Taser use statistics, Gov.uk
The recent death of Dalian Atkinson has brought the issue of the use of Tasers to the forefront of the media again. The circumstances behind the Taser deployment in his case is still being investigated, however his death has raised the issue of Taser usage, particularly its use amongst Black communities.
Tasers were initially described as a non-lethal way of restraining people. Following several deaths that have occurred following its usage, they are currently described as a ‘less lethal’ self defence weapon.
Police officers receive Taser training, not only in its use, but also in how to use judgement, how to read situations, when and when not to deploy the weapon. This training has not changed the fact however, that as a black person, the colour of your skin means you are much more likely to have that Taser used against you.
Black people are over 3 times more likely to be tasered than white people. This disproportionate targeting can be seen in other areas of law enforcement such as in the area of stop and search for instance. Following their 2013 report, the Equality and Human Rights Commission stated “the overall disproportionality in the use of the powers against black, Asian and mixed race people remains stubbornly high”.
Black people are six times more likely than white people to be stopped, and in some areas such as the West Midlands and Dorset that figure is much higher. Since 1999 stop and search amongst black people has risen more than 120%, while amongst white people it has risen 7%.
Rather than to simply retroactively look at the use of Tasers, stop and search and their impact on communities, we need to proactively use this opportunity as a springboard to have education and discussion around the issues of institutional racism that means black people are looked upon with more suspicion by those in positions of authority.
It is important in order for neighbourhoods to thrive that police are an integral and trusted part of these communities, and that people feel safe in their charge. The disproportionate use of Taser, stop and search and profiling towards black communities is creating the opposite effect and creating further mistrust and fear of the police to the detriment of all.
Read Government statistics on Taser use by police in England and Wales
here and the critical review of the stop and search powers in England and Wales by the Equality and Human Rights Commission here.