The level of threat

The police, or at least some of them, want tasers, according to Radio 4 today. Tasers are CEWS. Conducted Electrical Weapons. Oh alright, think of them as electric ray guns if it helps.

Still ouchy, but not dead ouchy.
You’re still going to be ouchy, but not dead.

Two hooks on wires shoot out of the Tasar into the target and about 500,000 volts gets rammed through them. It makes you convulse. It makes you fall over. It very, very rarely kills you, unlike any gun that could stop you as quickly. As a humane alternative to being shot by a 12-bore, which across a normal living room unlike on TV is something that is going to take your arm off, I’d choose being shot by a taser every single time. So far, so well, not good, but reacting to the level of threat, as the police spokesman said.

“When I joined in 1998, all we had was handcuffs and a truncheon. Now we go out in stab vests, with asps and CS gas. We’ve got to respond to the level of threat. That’s all this is. ‘Course, we’ve always had the long flight of concrete steps and the legal obligation to tell lies during the interview. And in court if we really have to, obviously. Don’t mind me asking but your car’s got an MoT, hasn’t it? Mind if I see the certificate?”

It may come as a surprise but the last bit’s not actually strictly true. He didn’t say that. Not on Radio 4 while it was on air, anyway.
But tooling up like this isn’t ‘responding to the level of threat.’ It wouldn’t have helped Lee Rigby, the all-too predictable mascot the police are wheeling out to support their militarisation. Lee Rigby was dead long before the police got there, but once the TERROR word has been used all discussion has to stop. By law very soon, I suspect.

If anything, the police are responding to a fear of being sued. By their own officers. The same logic applied to issuing stab vests. Are more policemen getting stabbed? You can be pretty sure the Daily Mail would tell you all about it if they were.

But is there a threat? Yes. There always has been. And as an employer, you have to make sure your employees don’t get hurt going to work if you know there’s a risk. You even have to make sure they don’t hurt themselves if they ignore what you told them to do to keep themselves safe.

An unlikely terror threat.
An unlikely terror threat.

Once upon a time a Mr Thornton worked for Qualcast, who made lawnmowers, pouring molten steel to make the heavy rollers to make people’s lawns nice. As a foundry worker, Mr Thornton was a bit rufty-tufty. In fact more than that. He was a bit of an arse. Qualcast knew what happened when you pour molten metal on your feet and if you’re lucky you’ll still have a leg to stand on. As Mr Thornton found out in court. He refused point blank to wear the safety gear Qualcast had bought him. Predictably enough, one day he poured molten metal in the wrong place and injured himself hideously. So he sued Qualcast. And won. Duty of care. Known risk. Negligent to let him continue with dangerous practices. Should have sacked him. Pay up.

Which is exactly the situation the Police Federation, ACPO, the various constabularies and the Home Office find themselves in. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be able to use the ‘terrorism’ magic wand to justify what you’re doing. What really does hurt is the total inability of the BBC to do anything except parrot the Party line, without even a question. That’s a much bigger threat to everyone than the remote possibility of getting Tasered.

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