ANTI-RACISM campaigners demonstrated in Oxford yesterday to call for an end to ‘racist policing’.

Organisers at Oxford Stand Up To Racism and Justice4Paps say black and Asian people are eight times more likely to be stopped and searched in the UK than white people.

They worry that if more police officers are armed with Tasers then the weapons will be used in the same ‘discriminatory’ way.

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A Taser can fire a 50,000-volt electrical shock at somebody, in most cases causing them to freeze and fall to the ground within seconds.

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Latest data from Thames Valley Police has revealed that officers used the weapon 270 times in the first three months of this year.

Officers, who must go through special training to be given the battery-powered tool, also used it 23 times on a child under the age of 18.

That number has rocketed in the last few years.

From January until March in 2019, a Taser was used 182 times and only 10 times on a minor.

In 2018, police used a Taser 149 times and only six times on a child.

In 2017, a Taser was used 117 times and, on a child, just three.

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There have been calls for every frontline officer in Thames Valley – of which there are 4,223 – 2,808 men and 1,415 women – to be armed with a Taser.

The head of the Thames Valley Police Federation, Craig O’ Leary, said it would bring an extra ‘level’ of protection to officers.

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He said: “Instead of escalating a situation where you need to draw and use a baton, with Taser you can sometimes bring incidents to a much safer conclusion to the protection of everyone.

“Speaking from experience as a former Taser officer myself, if you turn up to a violent incident and you’re carrying Taser, when they see that you are carrying it, that is often enough for them to change their behaviour accordingly.

"I’ve seen that first hand.

"And also it gives that officer that bit of confidence as well if the worst case scenario happened and they had to bring that situation under control.

"The training provided to our officers is second to none in that respect.”

Earlier this year it was announced that around 140 more police officers across Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire would be trained to carry the devices.

The Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, Matthew Barber, said it wasn’t likely that all officers would be armed anytime soon.

But he added: “Police officers put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect the public, it is right they are provided with the equipment they need to protect themselves and those they serve.

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"The use of Taser is closely monitored to ensure that it is used proportionately and appropriately.”

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Organisers of today’s protest said: “There is a grave concern that [Tasers] will be used in the same discriminatory manner as stop and searchers, putting the health and even the lives of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) people at further risk.”

Quoting a BBC story which highlighted Government figures, they added: “Already 20 per cent of Taser discharges are against Black people, who make up only 3.3 per cent of the population.”

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Thames Valley Police reiterated the point that Tasers are only used in ‘cases where it is necessary and proportionate to the behaviour’.

A spokesperson added: “The number of officers in the Thames Valley being assaulted increased last year, therefore there is a conversation around whether more officers need to be trained to use Tasers to deal with different threats, harms and risks to the public and themselves."

Speaking about the protests today, Kate Douglas, from Oxford Stand Up To Racism said, "The death of George Floyd has once again shone the spotlight on the racist treatment of minority groups at the hands of institutions, with discrimination evident in all areas of society, from education and access to support and healthcare, through to employment and pay, and treatment at the hands of police, magistrates and judges.

“We haven't seen a sense of outrage and willingness to demand change since the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

"It is clear that this new mass movement has the potential to win real change.

"We urge everyone to get involved in building this new movement."

Police say: "We recognise the strength of feeling and the important part that peaceful protest plays in a democratic society. We recognise the public’s right to peaceful protest, but continue to remind everyone about the vital role they have to play by acting responsibly and following the current restrictions set out by the government to prevent the spread of Coronavirus and keep our communities safe.

"We have a comprehensive policing operation in place to manage the impact of any protest activity.

"Thank you to the public for their co-operation, patience and continued support.”

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