TASERS have been used against teenagers by Surrey Police nearly 30 times in the last three years.
The county’s Police and Crime Commissioner, who has argued for their wider deployment, said people should stop seeing the devices as “scary space weapons”.
From 2010 to 2012 Tasers were deployed 29 times against persons under 20 and the weapons were fired ten times.
In 2010 a Taser was fired only once, on a 17-year-old boy who was assaulting his father.
The number rose in 2011 to five including two occasions where they were used in ‘drive stun’ mode.
In this setting the weapon does not fire electrodes at the subject from a distance but instead is pressed up against the body, causing incapacity through pain rather than electric shock.
These two firings were against 17-year-olds. One was a male attacking his mother and sister and the other attacked police officers.
In 2012 Tasers were fired three times against 19-year-olds and once against an 18-year-old. One subject was Tasered because he was “self harming”.
Amnesty International spokesman Niall Cooper described the increased deployment of Tasers as a ‘worrying trend’ and said reports by the charity show the weapons have contributed to more than 500 deaths in America.
“A Taser is a 50,000 volt assault weapon and should not be considered to be an extension of a truncheon. It’s not a weapon that just gives a tingle,” he said. “Many officers using them have only been trained for a couple of days. Officers should be highly trained to recognise when it should be used. It should be the same level of training as a firearms officer, who needs months and months of training.”
He added that the deployment of the weapons against young and vulnerable people makes adequate training in assessing a situation even more important.
In 2011 Surrey Police ‘red dotted’ a 14-year-old girl who was self harming and last year an officer pointed one of the weapons at a 15-year-old boy who was breaking into a house.
Commissioner Kevin Hurley said he has experienced the effects of the weapon, having volunteered to try it during time in America. He said although he is now in his 60s, with the associated risks of a heart attack, he would do it again to prove the point if the debate escalates.
“60-year-olds more than often are not the ones the police have to fight,” he said. “I’ve been in a lot of fights and if ever I had the choice of being punched or hit with batons I would rather be Tasered.
“Let’s not forget teenagers have played football for England and wrestled and boxed. Just because they are young does not mean they are not a right handful for police. Most officers are not six-foot-two, hulking rugby players.”
The weapons are, at present, carried by three emergency response teams covering the entire county but Mr Hurley wants to see more officers carrying them.
He argued that people need to make the leap of imagination from seeing it as a “scary space weapon” to seeing it as a less harmful way of dealing with violent criminals than punching or using batons or CS spray.
He said: “Taser is the least harmful way of overcoming a violent person. The most difficult people to control, if they are violent or disorderly, are young teenagers, full of testosterone, who are very strong and very physical.
“Regardless of anyone’s age, gender or state of mental health if they are attempting to harm themselves or offer violence to the public or police, despite always wanting to use engagement and conversation, there will come a time when you will have to use physical force for their own safety and that of those around them. At present the options available to police are limited.”