The Ombudsman’s Office takes aim at police following an investigation into an officer’s taser striking a child.
The office red-flags a lack of policy and protocols for police officers’ handling tasers during civilian demonstrations.
The incident happened during a career day fair at Edna Moyle primary school last February.
On Friday (3 May) the Ombudsman’s Office published its first year in review report looking at its statistics for 2018. In the report the investigation findings are published.
The Office’s Police Complaints arm said the taser was accidentally deployed while being demonstrated for students.
The taser’s probes struck a student causing minor injuries.
The report said, “The lack of confidence and the absence of policy or protocols for the use of Tasers in a situation such as this career day was of significant concern to the Ombudsman.”
Read the Ombudsman’s Office findings:
TASER POLICY UNDER REVIEW
In February 2018 two RCIPS officers participated in a ‘career day’ at a primary school. Two Tasers were displayed as part of a presentation highlighting police equipment. A Taser is a conducted energy device, that when fired, emits two barbed probes which conduct an electrical charge.
During a demonstration by police officers, a Taser was accidentally discharged striking a young student. A doctor, who was also attending
the career day, was available to render assistance to the child who sustained only minor injuries to their upper body. The child did not require hospital treatment.
We conducted a review of all documentation including statements from all police officers
involved in the incident together with relevant RCIPS policies and protocols surrounding the use and deployment of Tasers.
The officer responsible for the handling and ultimate discharge of the Taser was authorised to do so having undergone specialist training.
The officer was unable to account for how a cartridge came to be attached to the Taser
and ultimately deployed from the weapon injuring the child.
The investigation determined that one of the two Tasers supplied by the RCIPS armory for the event was capable of discharging the probes associated with it despite having been checked by the RCIPS armorer prior to being allocated for the demonstration.
A review of RCIPS policy documents revealed that despite the Taser Policy stating that there should be an ‘unintentional discharge policy’ displayed at every armory, this does not happen, nor was there any policy document pertaining to the care and handling of weapons.
The RCIPS has a dedicated Officer Safety Training Committee, whose remit extends to the use of Tasers. This committee was not made aware of the accidental discharge. The RCIPS Taser Policy does not incorporate standards for Tasers being used for demonstration purposes in a civilian setting.
The lack of confidence and the absence of policy or protocols for the use of Tasers in a situation such as this career day was of significant concern to the Ombudsman.
Recommendations to the Commissioner of Police included that the RCIPS carry out an assessment of their policies and training programs relating to the deployment of Tasers, specifically in situations where demonstrations involve the presence of children.
The Ombudsman also recommended that all future accidental discharges be brought to the attention of the Officer Safety Committee who should be required to carry out a post-incident assessment of any such event.
The Ombudsman afforded the RCIPS a six-month implementation period.