Police defend use of Tasers following death of ex-Sheffield Wednesday striker

Dalian Atkinson
Dalian Atkinson
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The organisation which represents rank and file police officers has defended the use of Tasers following the death of former Owl Dalian Atkinson.

The 48-year-old former striker, who played for Sheffield Wednesday in the 1989-90 season, suffered a heart attack after he was shot with a Taser outside his father's house in Telford, Shropshire, in the early hours of Monday.

His brother claims he had threatened to kill their 85-year-old dad, Ernest, after grabbing him by his throat.

West Mercia Police said the Taser was fired because of concerns for the 'safety of an individual'.

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Calum Macleod, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said any delay in response to an aggressive or armed suspect could result in someone else being killed.

He said officers trained to use Tasers have to deal with situations 'that arise in the blink of an eye', with no time to do medical checks on those they are about to fire at.

Atkinson had just spent a number of days in hospital having kidney dialysis before he died.

Mr Macleod said: "If people had the time to sit there and research medical history and research potential implications, the worst-case scenario could be that someone could be dead. Officers are called to deal with situations that arise in the blink of an eye and invariably have to be dealt with within that time-frame.

"We have to be able to run towards danger when it occurs. We have to be able to protect the public and protect ourselves. This is not the panacea to solve every problem but it is an option. It is a tool in a tool kit."

Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz, said: "The tragic death of Dalian Atkinson has raised deeply concerning issues with the use of Tasers in the UK.

"These weapons must always be used as a last resort, with the same seriousness an armed police officer would give to using a firearm. Despite being non-lethal weapons, under certain conditions they can be fatal.

"The Home Office and the College of Policing must review and then re-emphasise the guidance given to police officers on the use of Tasers. A failure to do so may lead to further tragedies, and public calls for a ban on their use."

Atkinson’s niece, Krissy Bentley, 32, has called for rank and file police to be banned from carrying Tasers.

“The whole family are distraught about the way my uncle died at the hands of the police.

"He carried no weapon and posed them little threat. Tasers should be a last resort which are called upon only when officers’ lives are in danger. Instead, the police seem to be using them routinely."