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France

Calls for clampdown on Taser use by French police

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-05-29

A human rights body in France on Tuesday called for greater regulation of the use of Tasers following a rise in their use by police in recent years, including extending the ban on areas on the body that can be targeted to heart and genitals.

A French independent human rights body has called for the greater regulation of the use of Tasers and other non-lethal weapons by the country’s law enforcement agencies following a surge in deployment of such devices.

In a report published Tuesday, The Défenseur des droits (Defender of Rights) – a state-authorised independently operated organisation – highlighted figures which show that the use of Tasers increased by 26 percent among French police in 2012 and by 30 percent among the country’s gendarmerie.

Meanwhile, although the use of Flash-Ball – a hand-held device that fires non-lethal projectiles, most commonly a rubber bullet – has decreased in recent years, use by the police of a longer-range version of the weapon known as the LBD 40x46 rose by 52 percent in 2012, on top of a 107 percent increase in 2011.

Concern over injuries

While the Taser, Flash-Ball and LBD 40x46 are all considered to possess non-lethal force, capable of neutralising a target but without the risk of death under normal circumstances, the organisation noted that their use can lead to severe and sometimes permanent injuries.

Flash-Ball and LBD 40x46 in particular have been associated with numerous injuries in recent decades, usually to the target’s eyes.

Under current French guidelines, Tasers can be used in “response to a dangerous situation, where the legitimate use of force is necessary to deter or neutralise a threatening and/or dangerous person”.

But the report cited numerous examples of law enforcement using Tasers and other non-lethal weapons in circumstances where such action was largely unnecessary.

In one case, in 2010, a Taser was discharged by a member of the police in response to a suspect exhibiting a “hostile attitude” towards the officer.

However, the report revealed that the only sign of hostility exhibited by the suspect was to sit down on a nearby bed and to pull up the duvet.

More training and tighter regulation proposed

In its report, the rights body suggested a number of ways the use of such weapons by the police could be better regulated and injuries avoided.

These included restricting the use of Tasers at close range while requiring law enforcement members to pay closer attention to the health of suspects following a Taser’s deployment.

It also proposed extending the ban on areas of the body that can be targeted by a Flash-Ball shot, which currently covers only the head and neck, to the heart and genitals.

Meanwhile, the report said that despite significant advances in recent years, further improvement in the way law enforcement agencies are trained in the use of non-lethal weapons is needed.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-05-28

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