Irish Examiner view: Citizens must have their say over Tasers 

Garda group says Ireland does not have enough armed cover spread
Irish Examiner view: Citizens must have their say over Tasers 

Garda Representative Association members at the GRA conference in Westport, Mayo, voting in favour of the force being issued with Tasers. Picture: Paul Mealey

Stab vests, body-worn video, a personal Taser for every officer. Perhaps this is just the correct moment for Paul Verhoeven to release the director’s cut of his dark 1987 sci-fi satire Robocop, which he has just done.

The bionic personality inside the armour had an Irish name, Murphy, who had been an ordinary officer on the mean streets of Detroit, taking on the drug gangs with all their attendant violence. That sense of isolation in the face of danger is not confined to the fantasy world. 

It is the reason that members of the Garda Representative Association have backed calls for Tasers, the electronic stun gun which is used to incapacitate violent people with “less than lethal force”.

One of the plotlines in the Verhoeven drama was that a critical shortage of police officers required a technological solution. The GRA conference heard one Garda division waited over two hours for armed back-up on eight occasions last year, when trying to deal with knife and gun crime.

The GRA says Ireland does not have enough armed cover spread across the Republic, and wants all those in the frontline equipped with Tasers.

Garda Ray Wimms, delegate for the Sligo/Leitrim division, said the public and members were being let down “by inadequate policing throughout the State”.

It had to be accepted that society had become far more violent, but there was insufficient trained resources to deal with the challenge.

All of this is true, but putting a Taser into every holster is a major development which should command the backing and consent of the public, and not simply be implemented as an operational requirement.

The weapon, although marketed as a device which stops short of causing death, has featured in a large number of controversies.

The 2016 killing of the former Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson by West Mercia police, led to a trial which heard that he had been tasered for six times longer than the standard practice. A Reuters investigation in the US documented more than 1,000 cases between 2000 and 2018 where people had died. Electroshock was formally cited as a cause of, or factor in, death in more than 150 of those incidents.

These are not the only reasons to draw breath before accepting the logical answer to legitimate concerns by hard-pressed officers is to increase the range of weaponry available. But they are good enough.

If our senior police chiefs want such equipment then they must make their case. And then the public, on whose consent policing depends, can decide whether it agrees.

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