After years of experimentation, police officers will be able to use the taser nationwide from this year. The police started training 17,000 officers last week. The first officers can now take to the streets with the electroshock weapon.

It concerns a three-day training in which an agent learns, among other things, how the weapon can be used, and when that is intended. It is expected that training all 17,000 officers will take a year.

Not every cop gets a electroshock weapon. 3000 to 4000 will be available. Officers can then take them with them when they go out on the street for, for example, a 112 report.

Experiments have been going on with the use of the weapon since 2017. In 2019, this showed that more than half of the people against whom the weapon was used were psychologically unstable or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. One in three was unresponsive. 95 percent of the suspects were male. The police expect that these proportions will remain roughly the same for the national deployment.

The then minister Grapperhaus gave the green light for the purchase of the weapons at the end of 2019 and set aside 30 million euros for this. According to him, the experiments showed that just pulling out the weapon can cause people to flinch and surrender to the police.

He also said that for years there has been a gap between the “bat and the pepper spray on the one hand and the firearm and the deployment of dogs on the other”.

Bet is controversial

The use of the weapon is controversial. Police officers must be cautious and careful with electroshock weapons, said National Ombudsman Van Zutphen in 2020.

He investigated two incidents in mental health institutions from 2018. In one case, officers tried to control a 37-year-old psychotic man, in another mental health institution the weapon was used against a 73-year-old man with dementia. In both cases, according to Van Zutphen, things did not go well.

“We do not yet know what effect one or more electric shocks can have on the physical health of vulnerable people such as the elderly, people with a weak heart or those with psychosis. In addition, there is the psychological damage. In the cases I studied, there is insufficient taken into account.”

Amnesty International

Amnesty International has also previously expressed serious objections to the use of the taser. The weapon should only be used by specialists in exceptional cases. The human rights organization also warned that there could be deaths if the weapon is used improperly or gets into the hands of the wrong people.

Janis Tamsma, who is responsible for the importation of the electroshock weapon at the police, is aware of the criticism, but believes that the weapon actually makes the actions of officers safer and more effective.

“Because it’s an alternative to situations where you would normally have to use much heavier force, or even pull your firearm. Think of a situation where someone is brandishing knives in a gallery that doesn’t respond to pepper spray. In that situation, a struggle often arises between police officers and such a person, with all the associated risks. The moment you have an electroshock weapon, you can end such a situation much safer,” Tamsma said to NPO Radio 1.

‘No significant injury’

The weapon was deployed about 300 times during the test phase. According to the police, this did not cause “significant injuries”. It has been decided that the shock mode of the weapon, in which an officer delivers a shock by pressing the taser against someone’s body, is only used in exceptional cases, a police spokesperson said. “It’s really only for an immediately threatening situation.”

The use of the electroshock weapon will be monitored in the coming years by the ombudsman, the Netherlands Institute for Health Care Research and GGD Amsterdam.

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