Lancashire police officer faces misconduct hearing after suspect tasered in custody (From Burnley and Pendle Citizen)
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Lancashire police officer faces misconduct hearing after suspect tasered in custody
Updated 5:02pm Tuesday 15th April 2014 in News
A LANCASHIRE police inspector faces a misconduct hearing after a watchdog said he ‘abdicated responsibility’ when a suspect was Tasered in custody.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said Inspector Graeme Smith failed to properly record ‘post-incident procedure’.
But its investigation concluded that two uses of a Taser at Burnley police station in 2012 were ‘justifiable and proportionate’ because the men presented a risk of violence to officers.
The IPCC report also found evidence of police staff making ‘inappropriate’ comments about an arrested man who had been Tasered in his cell for refusing a strip search.
In one clip, PC Darren Lee, who will not face a misconduct hearing, described how using a Taser would make a person ‘glow in the dark’ and prompt ‘blue flames coming out of his eye sockets’.
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Other anonymous comments, picked up on CCTV after an incident in September 2012, included “Went down though didn’t he?”, “No he was Tasered, silly boy,” and “Ahh did you make him cry? Couldn’t happen to a nicer person.”
Blackburn MP Jack Straw, who brought in the use of Tasers as Secretary of State for Justice in 2008, said Tasers were much safer than batons or pepper spray.
He said: "I agree Tasers have got to be used properly but I think everybody needs to bear in mind the job the police do."
And Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said anyone using a Taser had to be 'properly trained'.
The IPCC said Insp Smith ‘made no attempt to actively check that the post-incident procedure was completed’.
Alex Hall, the IPCC’s lead investigator, said: “Inspector Smith has not recorded his rationale for this decision, nor the later refusal, in any written manner. No rationale is discussed or recorded anywhere. This is not in line with the force policy.”
The IPCC investigations looked at complaints made following the use of a Taser on two different men in Burnley’s Parker Lane custody suite on July 29 and 15 September, 2012.
In both instances, Lancashire police said the men presented a risk of violence to officers while attempts were made to carry out strip searches.
In the July incident, a man had been arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated assault and launched into a drunken racist tirade at the police station before refusing a strip search.
He was Tasered by an authorised officer after threatening to fight anyone who tried to remove his underwear.
The IPCC recommended further training for Sgt Jonathan Lobb after he admitted he ‘did not feel sufficiently prepared to go into custody’.
In the September incident, officers had arrested a drunk man on suspicion of numerous driving offences. While searching him they found a blade and he refused a strip search after officers suspected he may have been concealing other items. He was Tasered after officers described him becoming ‘extremely volatile’.
Guidelines for using the 50,000 volt Tasers state that officers may use the weapon ‘when faced with violence or threats of violence of such severity that force is needed to protect the public, themselves or the individual concerned’.
Rachel Baines, chair of the Lancashire Police Federation, said there were ‘always lessons to be learned’ where Tasers were involved.
She said: “The public still find it odd. We are under a lot of scrutiny, but it’s worth remembering that it is a less lethal option than using a baton and causes less injuries to people.
“We are pleased with the IPCC findings which say the uses were justified.”
James Dipple-Johnstone, the IPCC commissioner for Lancashire, said: “The IPCC has a number of concerns about the use of Taser, including when it is used in confined spaces like police cells, where we believe it should only be used in exceptional circumstances. “Although our investigations found that in both instances use of Taser could be justified, there are areas for Lancashire Constabulary to address.”
Lancashire police declined to comment when asked if Insp Smith had been suspended.
A spokesman said: “The IPCC found that the use of Taser in both of these incidents could be justified in the circumstances.
“We note the recommendations in the report and have already addressed the issues raised.”
Blind man Colin Farmer, 64, who was Tasered in 2012 by officers in Chorley who mistook his white stick for a samurai sword, said: "Using Tasers in a prison cell is terrible. It is barbaric."
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