Chief constable Andy Marsh has defended the use of tasers after it was revealed Avon & Somerset Police has the third-highest rate in England and Wales.
He said officers were trained to “de-escalate” situations rather than use force and tasers were fired only “rarely”.
Mr Marsh said he watched bodycam footage on Tuesday night of a man tasered by Avon & Somerset police after he ran at them brandishing knives.
He said the officers’ use of the weapon was “very appropriate”.
Speaking during a Facebook Live with police and crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens on Wednesday 17th June, the force’s top officer also revealed the level of crime had returned to normal with the easing of lockdown.
Mr Marsh said the police were “open for business” and urged people to contact them if they were suffering antisocial behaviour.
It was reported this week that Home Office figures for 2018/19 showed Avon & Somerset Police had the third highest rate of taser discharge.
Mr Marsh said: “We recognise how sensitive the use of taser is as a tool for our job within our communities, which is why we exercise a great deal of care about who is trained, how they’re trained, and the use of the taser is scrutinised.
“We select the right people. An officer that is going to be trained in the use of taser is selected because they have a mature and experienced approach to the use of force.
“A taser would not be your first resort if you find yourself needing to use force.
“We were the first force in the country to give an additional day’s training to each officer each year on de-escalation.
“We would rather de-escalate something than bring it to a point where the use of force is needed.”
The chief constable said statistics on the use of taser included the number of times it was withdrawn from its holster, not just its discharge.
“That technically is a use even if it is not fired,” he said.
“In the grand scheme of things when you consider the thousands and thousands of interactions we have in some very difficult situations, it is relatively unusual for an officer to draw a taser, let alone discharge.
“I have access to all the bodyworn video in the force and very frequently watch it.
“I watched a discharge of a taser last night against a man who literally said he was going to harm the police officers and he ran at them brandishing knives.
“Were it not for the use of the taser I am very apprehensive about how that incident might have been resolved.
“That is an incident where it was used very appropriately.”
He said the independent scrutiny of police powers panel, set up by Ms Mountstevens, was one of the most important safeguards around taser use and it randomly selected the use of force by officers to examine if it was appropriate.
“We take very seriously the feedback they give us about what they think is good and what can be done better,” Mr Marsh said.
“The bodyworn video, which all officers carry and must use if they use a taser, has been invaluable in giving us some assurance about the use of taser and as a tool for training, so officers can watch it back and learn what they could do differently in future.
“Because of the training we give around de-escalation, because of the scrutiny that is given to the use of taser, it is taken incredibly seriously within Avon & Somerset Constabulary.”
Mr Marsh also said crime rates were back to the levels before the coronavirus lockdown.
“We have been thrust into a significant period of change where we have had to work differently,” he said.
“There has been pretty much a return to normal levels of crime, antisocial behaviour and demand.
“In the initial weeks we saw some reductions of about 30 per cent of crime and calls but we have seen that return to normal.
“If you are a victim of crime or you are suffering, we are open for business.
“This goes especially for antisocial behaviour.
“I wouldn’t want people thinking in the way we hear about people putting off enquiring about their heart complaint or not being able to fix their dental treatment.
“If you’re being victimised, we are open for business.
“We have been using this time to get ready to go again.”
Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter