Disproportionality in Police Use of Taser: Independent Panel Chair Announced

The National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Less Lethal Weapons and the College of Policing have announced Junior Smart OBE as the Panel Chair of an Independent Review into Disproportionate Effects of Use of Taser – a new project set up to identify, understand and tackle the root causes of racial disproportionality in police use of Taser.

Home Office statistics for 2019/20 showed that Black people were eight times more likely than White people to experience Taser being drawn on them or discharged. In 86% of all uses the Taser was not discharged.

The Independent Review into Disproportionate Effects of Use of Taser, has been established to commission and review an extensive, independent programme of social research to explore the causes and consequences of racial disparities in the police use of Taser. Under the scrutiny of an Independent Research Advisory Panel, this work will provide an evidence base to identify and inform meaningful policy changes aimed at improving racial disproportionality.

The National Taser Stakeholder Advisory Group (NTSAG), provides independent advice to the NPCC and has endorsed the need for research into disproportionality rates.

The project is due to formally launch in January 2021 and will run for an initial period of around 12 months, with findings published during the course of the project. An Independent panel with a majority Black membership appointed by the Chair Junior Smart OBE, supported by the NPCC, will include academics, activists, those with lived experience and community leaders.

The Review will form part of the NPCC’s and College of Policing’s developing Plan of Action on Inclusion and Race announced in July 2020.

Junior Smart OBE said: “I am really excited to be asked to Chair the Research Advisory Panel, which will be shaped by people who are independent of the police, have relevant expertise and lived experience, and are widely seen as authentic and credible voices on issues of race and diversity.

“Perhaps this year, more than any other, has shown how important it is for the police and minority communities to forge better relationships. But to get there we have to have meaningful and difficult conversations that explore the concerns that are raised time and time again.

“With our combined expertise we will be offering scrutiny, constructive criticism and challenge with the aim of identifying where and what reforms are needed to make a genuine improvement.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Taser and Less Lethal Weapons, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D’Orsi said: “Police officers across the UK do an exceptional job under immense pressure, but these statistics cannot be ignored. The impact of this disproportionality on communities is far-reaching and it is important that we do as much as we can to understand the underlying reasons.

“To get this right, we must be bold in accepting challenge and listening to both the empirical evidence and the lived experiences of those most affected by our work and policies. Junior Smart will bring his unique style and wisdom to the role of chair and he is the ideal guardian for this vital research.”

Richard Bennett, uniformed policing lead for the College of Policing, said: “Policing is becoming ever more challenging so it is vital that our training and guidance is informed by the most up to date research.

“Taser can be an effective tool for officers to protect the public but the evidence base needs to be developed so the service can understand and issues around disproportionality and the College can ensure that our guidance and training support its proportionate use.

“The independent review, under the leadership of Junior Smart, will play a vital role in providing police with crucial information to help ensure Taser is used fairly and consistently to keep the public safe.”

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