The use of Tasers by police in England and Wales can be highly controversial. For example, data show that at the macro level Taser is used on a higher proportion of people from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds than people from White ethnic groups. Its rate of use is around eight times higher for the Black population than for the White population.
In September 2019, the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) Chair Martin Hewitt commissioned the Officer and Staff Safety Review (OSSR). Its key objective was to present the NPCC with a set of recommendations designed to reduce the risk of police officers and staff being injured, assaulted, or killed in the line of duty. But the Review also found that there was a lack of evidence-based understanding of the multiple and complex underlying factors driving racial disparities in Taser uses, and recommended commissioning an independent programme of research on this topic.
In response, this research has been commissioned by the College of Policing. It is funded by the NPCC and MOPAC. The aims, objectives, and timescale for the research have been jointly agreed upon by both Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi, the NPCC lead for less-lethal weapons, and an Independent Academic Advisory Panel (IAAP).
Despite its ambitious programme of work, it must be recognised this is a relatively limited project in terms of the timescale and capacity required to address such a complex and challenging set of research questions. The contribution to the debates in this area will not be exhaustive. Nevertheless, it is anticipated that this project will contribute significantly to the evidence base concerning understandings, policies, and practices of taser use in England and Wales. It is anticipated that the research will also be used by the College, NPCC and our other partners to help inform interventions aimed at addressing ethnic or racial disparities.
The project is scheduled to run for one year from March 2022 to March 2023.
The first planned output will be a report for the College of Policing which will be published shortly after the project concludes. Each of the forces involved will also be learning from the work on an ongoing basis. This means findings from the research are likely to flow back in to force policy, training, and operational practice over the next few years. There will also be additional outputs including academic articles as well as presentations to relevant meetings, conferences, and training events.