current affairs

The Recent Death of Dalian Atkinson prompts questions about the use of Tasers by Police

Written by Laura H.

Last week saw the death of retired Aston Villa star Dalian Atkinson at the hands of the police force.

New details are beginning to emerge about what really happened when Atkinson’s father called the police to inform them that his son was agitated, and he did not know whether he had taken “drugs or alcohol.” How could he have anticipated that a call to the police for help would end up with the death of his own son? Yet it did, as police seem to have allegedly kicked Mr Atkinson while attempting to either restrain or arrest him, according to a neighbour, and Channel 4 reported that it took 15 minutes for an ambulance to be called.

There are also questions about the treatment of black men under police custody or arrest – Atkinson did not have a weapon on him and did not fight police. Figures also show that black men are three times more likely to be stunned than their white male counterparts. Raising questions as to whether the police need to review their treatment of people of colour and if the use of tasering possibly mentally ill people is counter-productive.

Atkinson was said to be unwell at the time of his arrest; it has come out that he was due to have dialysis for a kidney problem just days after his unfortunate death. He also suffered from a weak heart – and this is where the use of tasering and excessive force from police in the UK comes into question.

An issue often raised by members of the public about the use of tasering is that it can be useful to get someone down without physically attacking or holding them down with great force, but for those who have real health issues it’s use can be deadly. Pacemaker users, epileptics, those with weak hearts can suffer terrible consequences.

It has been reported in America that over 500 people have been killed by tasering. In 2014 tasers were used more than 5000 times in the first 6 months of the year. An investigation into the use of tasers by the Guardian in 2012 found that many officers direct the electro-shock device directly at the chest of civillians. The manufacturer has warned against the use of tasers due to the risk they pose to people – possibly resulting in their death. Lawyer, Sophie Khan says the use of tasers following Atkinson’s death is “unacceptable.”

Cases like Dalian Atkinson’s death, which is now under investigation, need to be looked at by the police in order to review their use of arms to detain people.