Report highlights the disproportionate use of tasers against black people

Georgina Andrews is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch

A review by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) was published on 25th August reporting on the issue of taser use by the police in England and Wales. The report highlighted the excessive and disproportionate use of tasers against black people, people with mental illnesses, people with learning disabilities and children.

Just over 100 cases of taser use were analysed in the report, which showed that between 2015 and 2020 the police were more likely to use tasers over a prolonged period of time on black people compared to white people. In fact, five cases were deemed to have wrongful use of the weapon.

The director general of the IOPC, Michael Lockwood, summed up the report by saying, “policing has to change and be more responsive to community concern or risk losing legitimacy in the eyes of the public”.

The trouble is for policing to change or end, the capitalist system has to go once and for all. Lockwood essentially admits that the police isn’t concerned with “community concern” in its lack of responsiveness, but instead caters to capitalists’ wants and needs, which includes brutalising black people, people with mental illness and/or learning disabilities and children. No reform will stop that. In the eyes of these communities, the police have already lost legitimacy. 

The IOPC have written 17 recommendations following the findings of the report, which have been sent to the College of Policing, the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, and the Home Office. Recommendations include: “improvements to national guidance and training; scrutiny and monitoring of taser use; and data and research”.

These findings come at a time when Amnesty UK, The Children’s Rights Alliance for England and the Omega Research Foundation, all rights organisations, have raised concerns against the inappropriate use of tasers.

Families, who have been affected by the use of the weapon, including families whose loved ones have been killed by tasers, have spoken out against the use of such a weapon by the police. 

During a mental health crisis in 2017, Darren Cumberbatch was beaten, tasered and sprayed, eventually leading to his death. Despite his premature death, no officer has faced disciplinary action. Cumberbatch’s sister has commented, stating: “We’ve already had numerous shoddy reports and unimplemented recommendations since the Macpherson review. Our families are ending up ruined from fighting for justice against a system built against us.

In true police fashion, police chiefs have rebuked the review in spite of campaigners’ suggestions that the recommendations don’t go far enough. To suggest that the institutionalised pattern of taser use is nonexistent or even helpful to stop crime reflects the importance of upholding racism under capitalism for the wealthy and their lackeys. Tasers are weapons of domination and repression with the covert goal of stifling resistance to racism and capitalism. Liberals would have everyone believe that increased taser use reflects an issue with black and mentally ill people – an idea which needs to be thwarted on every level.

Such opinions are commonplace amongst the British public because they are spread through the words of politicians, scholars, journalists and literary artists.

The current increase in use of tasers is happening at a time when the capitalist class is trying to reassert itself in face of challenges to its authority. It is by no coincidence that as taser use increases, the conditions of workers, particularly black workers, have worsened.

The police’s function is to terrorise workers and the poor classes whilst defending the interests of the exploiting classes. A ban on tasers is needed but an analysis of the entire role of the police is paramount for campaigners to be able to snuff out the problem fully.

This report inadvertently shines a light on the fact that black people and people with mental illnesses and/or learning disabilities only have rights or civil liberties on paper under this capitalist system. This is a theme with liberalism in general where oppressed sections of society, particularly those in the working classes, are left behind. 

Georgina Andrews