By Tamara Cohen
Would you mind turning around while I Taser you?: Police told not to fire at target’s chest
Police officers have been told not to fire a Taser gun at a suspect’s chest in case it triggers a heart attack.
Tasers were touted by the Government as a safe way to immobilise suspects and made available to all police forces in England and Wales in an £8million programme.
They fire a projectile carrying a 50,000-volt electric shock up to 25ft.
But police have been left confused after the manufacturer of the guns revised its guidance, urging officers to try to fire at a suspect’s back instead.
They say officers could be put off using the weapons as it is difficult to avoid the chest area, and they fear facing legal action brought by suspects.
The new guidance issued by Taser International, based in Arizona, says: ‘Officers should avoid chest shots where possible.
‘Should sudden cardiac arrest occur in a scenario involving a Taser discharge to the chest area it would place the law enforcement agency, the officer, and Taser International in the difficult situation of trying to ascertain what role, if any, the Taser could have played in a unique situation that cannot be replicated in human clinical safety evaluations.’
Taser has not previously warned of any risk from heart attacks, saying the shocks could cause bruising.
Yesterday one Met officer said: ‘Tasers are considered so good because all you have to do is hit the suspect somewhere on the body and it will do the job.
‘If we are now being told we have to avoid shooting suspects in the chest then I’m sure a lot of officers will be more reluctant to use them in the future as that isn’t so easy with Tasers which are much less accurate than guns.
‘Officers will be worried about discharging the weapon in case they hit the suspect in the chest and they have a heart attack.
‘We all know what can happen to an officer if there is any hint of bad policing practice – gardening leave or legal action or both.’
Last November, former home secretary Jacqui Smith announced plans to arm forces in England and Wales with 10,000 of them and train 30,000 officers to use them.
Several forces raised concerns about the plans, and the Metropolitan Police and Sussex Constabulary refused to apply for more guns.
Research earlier this year by the Daily Mail showed police use Tasers seven times a day.
A more powerful Taser which can immobilise a suspect for 20 seconds from 100ft away is being tested by Home Office scientists.