Riot warning following Met’s intention to introduce Tasers to Hackney

Taser stun guns.Life-saving deterrent or lethal weapon? They are to be issued to police more routin

Taser stun guns.Life-saving deterrent or lethal weapon? They are to be issued to police more routinely, to subdue and incapacitate dangerous suspects but that has raised concerns about their potential risk following several fatalities as well as fears they could be used against vulnerable people who may be in crisis and acting violently because they have mental health problems. - Credit: Archant

A youth worker has warned that youngsters could bear the brunt of the Met’s plans to arm officers with Taser guns – and claimed the move could result in the kind of anarchy seen in Hackney during the London riots.

Gang intervention worker Emeka Egbuonu is uneasy with the decision to arm up to 40 officers in every London borough with the controversial and potentially lethal weapon – which can shoot out 50,000 volts when fired.

He believes the move could trigger animosity to such a point that young people could well take the law into their own hands again.

From April 40 specially-trained officers in Hackney are due to carry the stun guns in situations involving violence or potential violence.

But the supposedly non-lethal weapons have been involved in at least one high profile fatality.

Mr Egbuonu, author of Consequences – Breaking the Negative Cycle, which was described as required reading within the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office, says he can understand the need to give police officers more protection, but that tensions already exist between young people and the police.

“Its use on only one occasion alone where it might not be justified could be enough to trigger animosity to such a point where young people take the law into their own hands again,” he warned.

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“In terms of trying to build relationships with the police, just one of these incidents can undo years of working closely,” added Mr Egbuonu, who works at De Beauvoir’s Crib youth club, where the Trading Places project encourages understanding between police and young people.

He has also criticised the fact that no community consultation has been held on the move.

Trainee barrister Ifeanyi Odogwu works in cases against the police and has assisted on the inquiry into the death of Mark Duggan – whose fatal shooting by police officers sparked the 2011 London riots – as well as campaigning against stop and search tactics in Hackney.

He said: “All too often we already see police officers going beyond their statutory powers and using disproportionate and excessive force.

“For a country that prides itself on an unarmed police force, this is a dangerous step in the other direction.”

The Met claims that in around 85 per cent of all cases in London, the mere presence of a Taser has been enough to bring a potentially violent situation to a swift conclusion – without having to be deployed.

Chief Inspector Simon Crick believes Taser is a “very effective tool” and has personally seen it deployed on the street when men fighting with metal bars refused to drop the weapons.

He does not believe officers will become more complacent in their use.

“With the training they receive, they are fully aware that deploying Taser is not a decision you take lightly and you have to justify your actions. It’s only used in extreme scenarios,” he said.