MEMBERS of the police Emergency Response Unit will begin training next week in the use of Tasers and pepper spray, as promised by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith.
The training is expected to be completed by month-end and the 600 selected ERU officers will be assigned special belts to hold the pepper spray, Taser, batons, guns and handcuffs. In the 2018/2019 budget Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced that government had agreed to buy the belts.
In his previous incarnation as National Security Minister Griffith had strongly recommended the use of pepper sprays and Tasers for the police.
Yesterday Griffith said, “I have seen Tasers, tested them and the next course of action is to make selection and order. But we are going to start training on how to use Tasers and similar scenarios with pepper spray. Depending on the escalation of threats, officers will utilise the items on the belt to minimise and subdue threats.”
He said police will also be using body cameras, but pointed out they only have only 100. On his own assessment, he said, some of those are not well suited for the police but he intends to buy up-to-date bodycams shortly. He added, “What I can say is that 50 vehicles will be equipped with dashboard cameras which will provide real-time video back to the Operations Centre.”
The intention is to ensure the minimum-use-of-force policy is adhered to, he said. If police officers encounter any violence, guns should be the last resort.
There is even a special drill in the use of batons, he said. “Batons should not be used to beat people into submission. The baton should only be used to restrain and subdue the person if they are assisting arrest, and not used as a pain-compliant method”.
On Tasers, he said, “In contrast to the perception that I am trying to go into overkill, by the use of force policy, my actions are proving to be totally opposite, in that never before have police officers ever been provided with these tools. They had to use the firearm, and had these items been provided in years gone by, (on) many occasions when officers were forced to use firearms, the outcome would have been different if they had these items.”
Newsday understands that government will buy 200 Tasers in the first instance, followed by another 400.