Use of Taser by the Dutch police unacceptable
Since 1 February 2017, the Dutch police have been experimenting with the use of the Taser X2 in day-to-day policing. The way they use these electro-shock weapons poses unacceptable health risks. This is evident from the report “A Failed Experiment: The Taser-Pilot of the Dutch Police” published by Amnesty International on 19 February.
The report shows that police regularly use Tasers in situations where there is no threat to life or risk of serious injury. Tasers were used against persons who were already handcuffed or were in a police cell or a separation cell of a mental health institution. Some even received multiple electric shocks which poses major health risks.
At the start of the Taser experiment, Amnesty pointed the authorities to their responsibility to prevent the risks of abuse and improper use. However, the way in which the Taser is used in practice demonstrates that the police and minister have seriously failed on that. For that reason, Amnesty calls on the authorities to immediately stop the experiment with electric-shock weapons.
Not used as an alternative for firearms
When the Taser was announced, it was said among other things that it would serve as an alternative to firearms. In practice, however, the weapon was used mainly in situations in which firearms would not (allowed to) be used. Moreover, Tasers were used against unarmed persons in no less than 80% of the cases.
Health risks were known
During the 2-day training, police officers were barely informed about the risks that electro-shock weapons entail, even though the risks were long known: the manufacturer extensively mentions them in the documentation. It explicitly points to the increased health risks when Tasers are used against seriously disturbed persons or when multiple electric shocks are administered in succession. Despite this, it nevertheless happened that persons received five, six or seven electric shocks. An additional day of training has been promised, however since the instructions for the use of Tasers have not been changed, this will not offer sufficient guarantees against their improper use.
The Taser is designed to temporarily incapacitate a dangerous person from distance. In practice, however, the weapon was used directly on the body in 44% of the cases, in drive-stun mode. In that case the Taser is used for the sole purpose of inflicting pain in order to obtain compliance. Discharging the Taser directly on the body does not result in temporary incapacitation of the person.
‘The repeated administration of electric shocks in drive-stun mode against someone who is already under control can only be considered as a violation of one of the most fundamental human rights, namely the prohibition of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment’, says Gerbrig Klos, expert on Human Rights and Police at Amnesty Netherlands.
Even though the evaluation phase of the Taser experiment has ended on 1 February this year, the various police teams are allowed to continue using electro-shock weapons. In light of the findings of this report, Amnesty considers this unacceptable and calls for immediate suspension of the use of Tasers.