Police Tasered a 17-year-old college student after an officer was injured during a fracas.

A video later emerged of the incident, which happened on Tuesday afternoon at Middlesbrough College.

But 10 years after they were introduced nationally to police forces, how do officers decide how and when to use a Taser?

These guidelines, drawn up by National Policing Lead for Taser, Commander Neil Basu for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and last updated in January 2015, explain.

Is every police officer given a Taser?

Every chief constable makes a decision to train and deploy a proportionate number of officers to use Taser so that the public are kept safe and their officers are protected as far as possible.

Each use of Taser is reported and scrutinised and officers are individually accountable to the law for the amount of force they use.

Why use them?

Police at Middlesbrough College
Police at Middlesbrough College (Image: Sam Jones)

In certain circumstances, the use of Taser is more appropriate than other uses of force and can help resolve dangerous situations safely, and with less risk of serious injury.

The trained officer must decide on the most reasonable and necessary use of force in the circumstances, and that must be proportionate.

The alternatives to Taser include a range of other measures such as physical restraint, batons and police dogs.

And in the majority of cases, the mere threat of a Taser has been enough to defuse a situation.

What happens to someone when Taser is used on them?

The normal reaction of a person exposed to the discharge of a Taser is pain, coupled with the loss of some voluntary muscle control resulting in the subject falling to the ground or freezing on the spot. Recovery from these effects of the Taser should be almost instantaneous, once the discharge is complete.

Anyone Tasered is then examined by a medical professional.

Who trains officers?

Officers are trained by their own, in-force staff who are themselves trained by a small team of National Instructors governed by the College Of Policing.

What happens if someone with a heart problem or other medical condition is Tasered?

Officers still have to deal with the circumstances presented to them, says the guidance. Some people who are violent may have a condition that not even they are aware of.

If an officer becomes aware someone is suffering from a condition, they will be treated as a medical emergency and rushed to hospital.

What happens if someone is Tasered more than once?

If a person continues to be violent after being Tasered, usually those on drugs or stimulants, they may be Tasered for longer. But officers are trained to always use the minimum duration necessary to bring a violent situation to a close.

Why has there been an increase in Taser use?

More officers have been trained.

Why has Taser got a bad reputation?

A police officer demonstrating the use of a Taser
A police officer demonstrating the use of a Taser (Image: PA)

This is a complex question, says the guidance.

Other countries have deployed Taser in circumstances that could be described as “questionable”, and some examples have been criticised by human rights groups such as Amnesty International.

The guidance says that there is no doubt that, internationally, a number of deaths have occurred in association with Taser use.

However, the role that the Taser played in these deaths is disputed.

Dealing with seriously violent people, any type of force police use carries risk.

But the guidance says because the Taser works ‘mysteriously’, the device is highly controversial – but the effect is more consistent and predictable than many other types of force police may use.

It is for these reasons, the guidance says, police find the Taser a useful option to have.

Can Taser be used on children?

There are no limits on age. Officers are taught there may be an increased risk of cardiac arrhythmia and barb penetration in children and thin adults. A child is classed as someone under the age of 18.

An officer has to justify their use of Taser to the standard of the criminal court. Taser may be used in such circumstances and can cause fewer injuries than a baton strike or other forms of force. Only 20% of cases result in the Taser being fired.

Who is selected to become a Taser officer?

All officers involved in Taser training have to satisfy a minimum requirement. Some forces may introduce other requirements including raised fitness levels depending on the officers’ core role within that police service.

National guidance and training says users should have:

• Sound judgment and a knowledge and understanding of the National Decision Model to resolve conflict.

• Demonstrated maturity of action, an ability to use legitimate force in a proportionate manner and have an acceptable Professional Standards/Complaints and Misconduct record.

• A biennial eyesight test to the same level as authorised firearms officers.

• Undergone a minimum of 18 hours of training, and be expected to be able to discharge a Taser accurately, pass a final exam and demonstrate competence at dealing with role-play scenarios.

• Successfully completed six-hour long, annual refresher training courses.

• Demonstrated they can load, unloading and function the Taser safely and report issues.

• There is no requirement for psychological profiling to be used for selection.

How do forces monitor Taser use?

All forces record and monitor all Taser use, and have been issued monitoring guidance.

How do officers make a decision to use Taser?

Officers use the National Decision Model and must look at each individual case and decide on the most appropriate tactical option that is in line with the law, is proportionate and necessary in the circumstances.

How can police be confident the right amount of current comes out of a Taser?

Tasers generate 50,000 volts to produce the spark discharge, but once the electricity contacts the body, the voltage drops to about 1,500 volts.

The manufacturer carries out thorough tests on all of its Tasers, which are guaranteed by an internationally recognised quality assurance body to ensure they meet operational specifications before they are supplied.

Tasers are also regularly checked.

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