Taser – Buckingham Palace

The last few months saw various debates about Taser and I wrote a post about it just before Christmas. Today we saw events outside Buckingham Palace in which a man who has been reported to have “mental health issues” was tasered by a police officer as he brandished two knives, holding one of them to his neck.

Talhat Rehman, 54 from Harrow has been charged with possessing a bladed article and affray and will appear before Westminster Magistrates. I was keen to learn the outcome of this man’s arrest and to learn more about whether the comments about mental health issues are vindicated.  It has since emerged that he was previously arrested near Westminster Abbey in possession of a weapon and then diverted from justice under the Mental Health Act.  Of course, irrespective of whether that was known, it may just have been officers’ initial perception of him that he was mentally unwell and a proper assessment will have occurred in police custody after he was arrested for affray – an offence concerned with threatening behaviour in circumstances where bystanders could be caused to fear violence.  At that stage, proper enquiries would have revealed the Westminster Abbey incident from September 2012 and this background may well have influenced the decision to charge him for the Buckingham Palace incident.

Is it interesting that he was arrested for affray and that he was not detained s136 MHA? Maybe – officers may have suspected MH issues only after the arrest; or they may have weighed up whether to arrest for s136 or an offence and “affray” was their judgement. Again – all reflective of real decisions facing police officers every day but even if he does have mental health issues, the evidence suggests he will still bear criminal liability.

In the broader debate about the coercion by the police, taser remains controversial – see the comments on my recent post on the Use of Force for examples of that. I would argue that the incident which you can see for yourself illustrates why taser can not be ruled out as an option – we see for ourselves that as soon as the man realised he was being approached by the police officer he turned towards him and had all the appearance of intending to lunge towards him with his very large knife as the effects of the taser took hold when he was struck by a second officer.

Why not watch it for yourself? –

Had the police officers approached that situation without a taser there are only two things that would have happened:

  • Approach him using CS, baton and handcuffs – the close proximity in which the officer would have had to place himself would have rendered that extremely dangerous and we have seen what can occur. Even if the officers had navigated the incident unscathed, the CS may or may not have worked – it doesn’t work on everyone – and batons are only ever likely to cause injury, sometimes seriously.
  • Approach him using firearms – you can see on the video that many of the Metropolitan Police officers present were armed. This is routine near Buckingham Palace. This could only have led to a prolonged stand-off, which may not have been viable in such a congested, densely population tourist area OR to the use of firearms. Taser avoids the need for a firearms conclusion.

Whilst I don’t like the idea that anyone with a mental health problem is tasered, I look at this video and wonder whether what we have seen is the least worst option in the circumstances? All use of force options in this situation would carry risks, including the “do nothing” option. The particular tactical choices made here brought this incident to a conclusion very quickly and very safely without significant risk to the subject but the officers still put themselves in harm’s way because the Taser is not guaranteed to work either. I kep noticing how the man was wearing a fairly thick outer garment and quite probably lower layers of clothing. This can lead to problems in the taser barbs connecting to form a circuit so the officers approach here was not without its own risks.

Something to think about – recognising that the debate goes on.

Talhat REHMAN from Harrow pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to two counts of possession a knife in a public place.  He was sentenced to a mental health treatment requirement as part of a community sentence.

Update on 01st April 2015 – since writing this article, a new Code of Practice has come into effect in England.  It doesn’t substantially alter the post but certain reference numbers have changed.  My summary post about the new Code of Practice (2015) is here, the new Reference Guide is here and the full document is here.  The Code of Practice (Wales) remains unchanged.

Winner of the President’s Medal,
the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award


All views expressed are my own – they do not represent the views of any organisation.
(c) Michael Brown, 2013

I try to keep this blog up to date, but inevitably over time, amendments to the law as well as court rulings and other findings from inquests and complaints processes mean it is difficult to ensure all the articles and pages remain current.  Please ensure you check all legal issues in particular and take appropriate professional advice where necessary.

Government legislation website – www.legislation.gov.uk

26 thoughts on “Taser – Buckingham Palace

  1. Tazer is cleaner and less fatal in most cases than firearms. They also save the allegations of brutality with asps. The pain doesn’t last as long as that from capture spray.

    im no expert but if it works and reduces injury to both parties it’s all good.

  2. The video appears to show the man being shot with a taser, a shot which was ineffective and aggravated him as he can then be seen reacting by swinging his weapon in the direction of the officer who fired that shot. then a second officer fired his taser which brought the man to the ground the camera loses sight. and the next time we see him he is on the ground being restrained.

    I can’t see any valid complaint about a taser or two being deployed in this situation or a situation like this. The man was armed and given the number of officers in attendance and the man holding the blade against his neck i think it is safe to assume that basic communication techniques had been used and had not worked.

    This looks to have the hallmarks the man trying “suicide by cop” thankfully he failed and no one was injured. Hopefully he will receive the help he needs.

    1. were is the video of the officers deploying the taser on the blind man? We are hearing what the man is telling us but unless you have the video of the officers there it is pointless comparing the two.

      1. A CCTV clip was shown. Did you watch it? Or are you just blindly defending an officer foolish decision to use his weapon on an innocent elderly blind man. The research i have done on the incident shows only one difference between what the victim of this assault claims to have happened and what the foolish officer who attacked him claimed happen. That is the officer claims he shouted a warning and the victim denies any warning was given.

        Personally i believe the victim because he has nothing to gain by being dishonest.
        The officer on the other hand should be on his way to jail and if Officers were accountable for their actions that is where he would be. The officer needed to do everything he could to justify his role in the gigantic mess he had just created.

    2. Really? A few seconds from very poor quality CCTV, a few news articles and you’ve managed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the officer did it maliciously? You read the Daiy Mail by any chance?

      1. I am extremely worried by your response. You have previously said on this blog that you are a taser officer but it is clear from your comment that you have either the observation skills of a potato or that you have insufficient processing power within your closed mind to be trusted with a weapon or a warrant card.

        Nowhere have i stated or suggested that the officer who assaulted the elderly blind man did so maliciously.

        The word i used to describe his actions was “foolish”. I then went on to say that i would believe the word of the victim who had noting to gain over the word of the word of an officer who had needed to justify his role.

        We have just witnessed you fabricate something to try and justify your point and in doing so you have proven that Police Officers who carry tasers can be undesirable characters.

      2. no you are right, I am sorry I did not see it as I must have blinked. I am not sure how you compare the two personally. Whilst I have never said I defended the officers actions (have I?) in that case they are worlds apart, officers are human at the end of the day and not robots, they do get things wrong for that very reason.

        Nothing to gain by being dishonest? Apart from compensation?

      3. How about the part where you said “the officer on the other hand should be on his way to jail”? This suggest a criminal offence, which needs a mens rea (ie malicious) and it needs to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt to get found guilty of and go to prison for.

        So as a Taser officer I’ve made an informed decision based on the evidence before me and reacted with an appropriate and proportionate response. You Richard however reacted initially with abuse, then forgot you previous actions and made false aligations based on biased stereotypes and fiction.

        Which is why I’m the Taser officer and your an armchair critic. Which is probably for the best

      4. Keep on digging that hole for yourself. It is your reputation that is being damaged by your fabrications and dishonesty.

  3. I agree this is the sort of situation where taser use was appropriate. There was clear risk of the chap hurting himself as well as the danger to any police approaching him. Better a taser than a gun I reckon.

  4. From a totally non-expert viewpoint, it looked to me like a taser was the best option in that situation.
    Even on a Monday, I guess there would be quite a lot of tourists present for Changing of the Guard, and any other option would potentially take longer to bring the situation to a safe conclusion, and could do more damage to those present.

    I also admired the use of officers on horses for crowd management – a good example of what they do best!

  5. Likely that most will see this case as appropriate.

    In essence people think of taser as being one step down from firearms. This chap had a lethal weapon, therefore taser was surely better than use of a firearm.

    More controversial is placing taser further down the continuum of force. If a person is unarmed but an officer is taught that taser is safer than using a baton, or even that taser is safer than grappling with a violent person, then the officer will use taser in less serious circumstances. Many US police agencies already take this view and UK begining to place taser as less force than a baton.

    Good example is a huge bodybuilder, unarmed but utterly psychotic and enraged by drugs. Should police grapple with him or use taser? Which would be safer for both officers and him?

    Needs debate, and certainly public need to know this happening and why.

    1. I would suggest that using a taser on a drugged up body builder is extremely likely to cause his death because of the state his cardiac system is going to be in. Drug misuse (steroid) has probably been going on a long time and therefore lots of damage.

      The logical conclusion to this is that if the bodybuilders actions genuinely bring about the need for LEATHAL FORCE then use the taser. If not then use other, more traditional methods. This might sound hard on the police but you know that you will be involved in fights and that you might get injured when you sign up to the job. You are well paid (above average in the north) you have to take the rough with the smooth and sometimes that means grappling with a drug fueled body builder. I used to run a pub and at that time i did my share of rolling around in the gutter with drug fueled nutters.

      1. Taser on drugged up body builder is the safest for the officers (or do you just think they are overpaid cannon fodder who are just paid to take punches) and the rest of the public. What is not safe is eight officers trying to hold his arms, legs, neck and anything else whilst smashing into furniture and then falling onto the floor into a heap. Then everyone holds on for their lives whilst someone tries to apply a set of cuffs when one person ends up on his chest/head. Positional asphyxia has killed many in these sort of scenarios for the reason no other tactical option is available (like taser), what is safer is a taser deployment, he falls to the floor, he gets handcuffed and then put in the van. Trust me I have seen and done both and a taser where it is justified is safer for everyone regardless of what you think.

        I of course turn up for work and think that I might get injured at work. I completely accept that but why should I not have all reasonable tools available for me to protect myself, my colleagues and the public? Like it or not the world is not getting anymore peaceful and this is the entire reason the use of taser was expanded to non AFO officers. For far too long officers and suspects have been getting injuries becase officers without choice went hands on when there was no other option, now taser is in play even the lone use of a red dot can resolve the situation with absolutely no need to use any additional force.

      2. Richard your comments genuinely frighten me.

        Next time I’m faced with a drug fueled body builder I’ll give you a call so you can come and grapple with him for me. If you’re not available then I’m afraid he’s going to be tasered. The bottom line is that I’m not the biggest person in the world and a 20 stone bodybuilder is going to seriously injure me, my colleagues and himself as we try to restrain them using what you quaintly call ‘traditional methods’. They are traditional because we now have new things, like tasers where the risks to the subject and the officer are greatly reduced. I know this because I’ve actually been there and done it both with and without a taser and invariably taser has concluded an incident quickly and with no or minimal injury to anyone.

        I knew what I signed up for and it wasn’t fighting drug fueled bodybuilders whilst trying to appease the anti taser lobby. Once again, tasers are not lethal and their use does not equate to lethal force in any way. Quite why you think police officers should risk getting seriously injured because of your misguided views on taser is beyond me.

      3. That you think the police get involved in “fights” shows where your thinking lies, in my opinion. I don’t get involved in “fights” and haven’t since I was 12 when Graham Massey accused me of stealing his girlfriend and threw a punch. I get involved in the professional application of force to resolve conflicts and disputes where non-force options have been tried and failed or are inappropriate.

      4. Richard, you seem very convinced of the lethality of taser. If you rely on media reports it may appear that way. If 100k people are tasered and one dies having been conscious and raving for an hour after he was tasered, thats the one the media report. Not the ones who are totally uninjured.Taser use is now up into the millions of operational uses worldwide.

        In the body builder case, its important not to underestimate the risks, to him, from ‘do nothing’ or manual restraint options. One of the mechanisms that kills such people, no taser involved, is prolonged extreme activity in the presence of drug which promotes cardiac arhythmia. Their body sends them clear messages to stop, but they just can’t. You may be aware of a young lady who died during a marathon, having taken such a drug. A large crew of police wrestling with these people for twenty minutes only makes this worse.

        One approach to this phenomenon is rapid control via taser, followed by sedation by medical personnel called to the scene as part of the response.

        We need to be cautious about unevidenced conclusions – in many instances taser may be safer than manual restraint.

        In terms of non-fatal injuries taser is certainly safer – for the arrestee – than batons, manual restraint (and particularly police dogs).

        There is no ‘safe’ response to serious violence or determined resistance. People are only ever trying to achieve the least risk.

      5. I am convinced that tasers kill people. There is lots of evidence to support this fact including one very interesting video in the US http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNU4AK-JUrQ

        Eleven years ago i woke up in a hospital bed. I had no idea how i got there but later discovered i had collapsed in the street and was brought in by ambulance. A previously undiscovered heart problem had caused me to collapse.

        Anyone who uses a taser on me is extremely likely to cause my death because i have a weak heart.

        Perhaps you may now understand why i have such strong views on the use of these deadly weapons.
        Police officers have no way of reasonably knowing that i have heart problems and no way of knowing that use of a taser on me would almost certainly result in me leaving in a body bag. My death would then be investigated by a government pathologist who would say that i died of perhaps an unrelated blood clot, or some other fatal medical condition which is unrelated to the use of the taser. The death by taser statistics would remain unchanged and the police propaganda machine could carry on telling officers that tasers are great and safe.

        In a world where officers can freely attack an elderly blind man because he has a white stick, what chance do the rest of us have.

      6. Richard, the specific language you choose to employ undermines the validity in many of your points and I say that in recognition of the emotion involved in it. All weapons can be deadly and restraint is even more “deadly” than Taser of Firearms, proportionately speaking. So why not call for an end to restraint? – if you were resisting police and they took you to the ground and restrained you, your weak heart may be an issue too. If you look at any police force since they introduced Taser and you will find more deaths from restraint and Firearms, than from Taser.

        And as for “freely attack an elderly blind man” … there is an ongoing inquiry into that event – result awaited. All officers, once trained, are ‘free’, as it were, to use their equipment as they see fit, subject to oversight. So in theory, they could run people over in their police cars, hit people on the head with a baton, or shoot people if they are authorised to use firearms. Officers have done all of these things and sometimes they have been vindicated for doing so without disciplinary sanction of any kind – others have faced trial in the criminal courts. You’ll notice that the officer in Lancashire has been withdrawn from duties involving a Taser and the IPCC are investigating him and Lancashire Police, so he’s hardly unaccountable! He could, yet be prosecuted, sacked or both. Let’s see before we emote to this degree.

      7. Richard, if you have a weak heart then I’m afraid it’s just as likely you’ll be killed by ‘grappling’ with me and my colleagues while I try and restrain you. If as you state you have had your fair share of rolling in the gutter then you’ll know how much hard work it is.

        As for your assertions that taser is lethal I’m afraid the statistics simply do not back that up, at all, in any way and your use of emotive language is not going to change the fact that not a single death has ever been directly attributed to use of taser. People have died after being tasered, they’ve also died after being batoned, CS’d and walking up some stairs. Shall we ban stairs too because by your logic they’re lethal weapons.

      8. Richard, I think you need to start seeking evidence other than You-Tube videos.

        Unlike the comment preceeding this, I would not state that not a single death could be attributed to taser. However, I would be finding you single case reports in the journals. If the claim is death due to cardiac arhythmia, directly caused by electrical stimulation then the key features are imediate collapse, imediate loss of circulation, ventricular fibrilation at ECG by paramedics. This is not what is being reported in the great majority of cases which some people (including the media) choose to attribute to taser. In the ongoing bodybuilder case, the cardiac arrest occured more than an hour after last use of taser, his prolonged extreme struggling and the illicit drug are a much more likely cause.

        Pre-existing heart disease is not necessarily an issue. The key point is that the levels of energy (joules) experienced by the heart are not sufficient to ‘capture’ the heart cells – ie the electrical stimulus overcomes the cells natural rhythm and imposes it’s own rhythm. Even if you are not convinced by taser research, don’t forget that electrical stimulation is well researched in medicine – defribrilation, pacemaking and even stopping hearts (during operations). Some doctors/physiolgists study specialise in this topic.

        To regard taser as lethal force really is not supported by the evidence. We are talking about literally millions of operational uses. On top of this we have policies on police training courses which are commonly ‘officers are encouraged to experience the taser’ or even ‘officers MUST experience the taser in order to be certified’ – over 700,000 such episodes in one report. Not a single death.The idea that death as a direct result of taser is a reasonable expection on a single use just doesn’t stand up.

        None of the force options are ‘safe’ but taser may be less unsafe in many cases.

  6. Debate away – but as I’ve now seen the second example on this thread of insults being thrown I feel entitled to say this:

    People who contribute comments to the blog should do so without behaving like primary school children or they will be blocked from commenting at all. This is not one of those “ranty” blogs – it is a genuine attempt to get dialouge going. Say things that will provoke debate by all means – disagree, by all means. But grow up.

  7. In this situation the Officers on scene had no choice but to contain the situation quickly with minimal distress to all involved. A Taser is, arguably, preferable to Pepper Spray or a Bullet.
    No-one can justify causing yet more distress to a Mental Health Patient but the object was also to avoid him doing harm to himself as much as those around him.
    Once detained. We pray he will get the help he needs.
    A job well done, in my humble opinion.

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