Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson has said that he will soon meet with the National Association of Police Officers (LL) to discuss the possibility of Icelandic cops being allowed to carry tasers on their person, RÚV reports.
Two shootings in Reykjavík in the past week have renewed discussion of the topic of arming police further. Icelandic patrol officers do not carry sidearms on their person, but usually do have a gun locked in a special box in their squad cars.
Tasers have been explored as a so-called “less lethal” option for Icelandic police officers. Despite repeated efforts to pass legislation that would allow them to carry tasers, such proposals have repeatedly failed in the past.
This time may be different, as Jón has expressed support for the idea.
“Our police are people just like us and have families,” he told reporters. “It is natural that there might be some fear amongst police officers when they are dispatched to a difficult call. We are examining whether it would be natural to take a middle stance and take up tasers, which has a great deal of experience around the world, amongst other places in neighbouring countries.”
Jón added that while cops do carry pepper spray and clubs, that clubs can cause serious physical injury, and tasers might help prevent that.
However, research on these devices has shown that tasers can impair brain function, and may cause fatal heart attacks and other injuries. A CBC investigation found that one in three people who were tased required medical attention afterwards.
In addition, there is also the question of when a taser is used. A Houstin Chronicle report showed that in some 1,000 cases of Houston police using tasers, “in 95 percent of those cases they were not used to defuse situations in which suspects wielded weapons and deadly force clearly would have been justified.”
On this last point, Jón has said that tasers, if used by Icelandic police, would only be deployed under “very strict guidelines”. While assistant police commission Runólfur Þórhallsson has said that he sees no need to arm the police further, LL has issued a statement saying that the possibility of being allowed to have the same tools as police in neighbouring countries must be explored.
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