I want to update the House on work by the police to improve transparency on how they use force and on their use of conductive energy devices, commonly known as Taser.
In October 2014, the former Home Secretary commissioned the then national policing lead for conflict management, Chief Constable David Shaw, to carry out an in-depth review of the data that should be recorded and published every time significant force is used by the police. This formed part of a range of work focused on improving the way the police interact with people, in particular vulnerable people, those with mental health issues, and black and minority ethnic groups. A key driver has been to ensure transparency and accountability on the police use of sensitive powers.
I am pleased to update the House on the significant progress made, supported by a diverse range of partners including Amnesty International and BMH UK. Chief Constable David Shaw’s review made a number of recommendations, which set out that the police should publish a range of key information in respect of every serious use of force, including the ethnicity, age, location and outcome. The information should report on the situations when physical restraint is used, as well as the type of equipment, such as handcuffs, batons, sprays and conductive energy devices.
The recommendations made by Chief Constable Shaw were agreed by the former Home Secretary, and work has since been undertaken to ensure all police forces are ready for a new data collection system beginning on 1 April 2017. All forces will publish the data recorded locally on a quarterly basis, with a subset of the key information collected provided to the Home Office as part of the annual data requirement for 2017-18.
This data collection will be a significant factor in improving public trust and confidence in the police use of force. Improved transparency will contribute to delivering a real commitment on behalf of the police to respond to the genuine concerns raised by the public.
For the first time, these data will allow meaningful comparison across the range of techniques and tactics used by the police, and this should in time directly influence and strengthen police training, and operational decisions around the most appropriate tactics and equipment available where needed. It will allow scrutiny of why force is being used, which will provide invaluable insight, particularly in respect of minority and vulnerable groups, and in locations of concern, such as hospitals, mental health institutions and custody cells.
The wide range of data collected will also include information on injuries suffered, by the subject and also by the officers concerned. Our police forces deal with volatile and potentially dangerous situations every day, and these data will allow us to better understand the need for appropriate, justifiable use of force, as well as providing evidence of the tactics and techniques that may be more or less likely to result in injury in different circumstances.
This work is a real step forward. I am particularly pleased with the progress made to ensure the police and the public have the information needed to rightly scrutinise how the use of force is deployed and I am proud that this level of reporting is unmatched anywhere in the world.
This is particularly fitting today as I would also like to inform the House of the Home Secretary’s decision to authorise a new conductive energy device (CED), Taser International’s Taser X2, for use by police forces in England and Wales. This decision is in response to the formal request from the national policing lead, DAC Neil Basu, on behalf of the police in England and Wales following the end of production of the existing authorised device, the Taser X26, and an open and transparent procurement exercise to identify a replacement.
This Government are committed to giving the police the tools they need to do their job effectively, and where modern specialist equipment like CEDs are used, to ensure our officers have access to the best and most appropriate technology. The decision to authorise the Taser X2 follows stringent consideration of strategic, ethical, operational and societal issues, including an assessment of environmental factors. As part of this process, a full technical evaluation of the Taser X2 has been carried out. The results of this evaluation, as well as user handling trials, and training and guidance materials, were submitted for independent medical assessment by the Scientific Advisory Committee on the medical implications of less-lethal weapons (SACMILL). The Committee has provided a medical statement on the Taser X2 and which confirms that when used by trained operators in accordance with UK policy and guidance, the medical implications of the Taser X2 are in line with those expected of a less lethal weapon of this type.
The decision to authorise the Taser X2 for use by the police also marks the award of a commercial contract with Taser International’s UK distributor, Axon Public Safety Ltd. A new national framework agreement will shortly be in place, subject to a 10-day standstill period.
A copy of the use of force data review can be found in the Library of the House, and I will ensure that SACMILL’s medical statement is placed there and on gov.uk.