What is Taser?

Taser officer with gun

What is Taser?

A taser is a less-lethal single shot weapon designed to temporarily incapacitate a suspect through the use of an electrical current. It is a hand-held weapon similar in shape and size to a pistol, but is bright yellow in colour.

The X26 Taser, used by trained Met officers, uses an electrical current which interferes with the body’s neuromuscular system. It allows officers to deal with violent or potentially violent people at a distance.

Taser is usually held in a holster on an officer’s belt (but can be carried in other positions if a firearms officer) along with other officer safety equipment. It is clearly visible, being yellow and black, designed to stand out and be identified as a Taser.

Common Taser related terms are:

  • Red dot - The Taser has a laser sighting system which allows the officer to mark the suspect with a red dot. This has the advantage of letting the officer know they are on target and also letting the suspect know that they have been targeted.
  • ‘Arcing’ - This is a ‘show of strength’ aimed at deterring a suspect. This is achieved when the officer squeezes the trigger without the cartridge attached and the electric current flows between the two contacts at the end of the Taser. An audible and visual display of electricity crackling across the two contacts can be seen and heard.
  • Cartridges - These contain a pair of wires with barbs attached that carry the electric current to the subject’s body. The cartridge is clipped on to the front of the Taser. The Taser works by delivering an electrical charge to the body.

Taser works on two levels - Psychological and physiological

Psychological - Taser stands out, it is yellow and black. The laser sight allows the officer to accurately aim the Taser as well as giving a clear warning to the subject that they have been targeted. Publicity through the press and on social media has meant that most suspects are aware of the effects of Taser and tend to surrender without the need to discharge the weapon. In the vast majority of cases it was not necessary to discharge the Taser, its presence alone was enough to bring the situation to a swift conclusion without the need for force to be used.

Physiological - When fired Taser delivers a sequence of very short high voltage pulses that result in the loss of voluntary muscle control causing the subject to fall to the ground or freeze. In the X26 the voltage peaks at 50,000 volts and when it reaches the body it is substantially less. The volts are responsible for delivering the amps. Taser runs off 0.0021 amps at average performance.

To explain this in simple terms, volts deliver the amps to where they need to go. If you take the analogy of water flowing through a hose, the AMPS are the water and the volts are the hose.

Amps can vary in size, to put this into context no more than 13 amps are needed to power a kettle. 32 amps are usually found running around a typical house. Two to three amps are enough to cause a person some harm. Taser runs on considerably less at 0.0021 amps

At the science museum they had a Van de graf generator which the public were invited to touch. The generator had in excess of 1 million volts going through it. When the glass ball was touched it caused the persons hair to stand on end. They were able to do this safely because there were no amps carried by the volts.

Angled drive stun - Taser is designed to safely incapacitate a person at distance, sometimes distance cannot be achieved due to the subject being too close to the police officer. On some of these occasions it will be appropriate for an officer to incapacitate the subject by carrying out an angled drive stun. This involves activating the loaded Taser close to the subject’s body and then placing the Taser against another part of their body to incapacitate them.

When Taser, or any other force is used on an individual, a police officer will always have to justify their actions as being necessary and proportionate under the Law.

All uses of Taser are reported to the Home office in great detail, including those where young people are involved.