Taser police officer told to say sorry

Colin Farmer who was tasered by police who mistook his cane for a Samurai sword
Colin Farmer who was tasered by police who mistook his cane for a Samurai sword
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A police officer who Tasered a partially-sighted stroke victim has been told to improve in his job and apologise to the man.

PC Stuart Wright faced a gross incompetency meeting this week after an independent IPCC investigation into his decision to Taser grandfather Colin Farmer in Peter Street, Chorley, on the evening of Friday, October 12, 2012.

Mr Farmer, then 63, was hit by the 50,000 volt taser stun gun as he made his way to meet friends for a drink in Chorley town centre.

Police said they mistook his white stick for a samurai sword after responding to a report that a man was seen walking in town with a sword.

PC Wright was dealt with under Stage 3 of the Police (Performance) Regulations 2008 for Gross Incompetence by a panel made up of Assistant Chief Constable Tim Jacques, Chief Supt Richard Goodenough-Bayly and Mr Ashley Judd, the Constabulary’s Head of Human Resources.

The two-day hearing, which ended on Tuesday, took place at Lancashire Police headquarters.

The panel found that the officer failed to perform his duties to a satisfactory standard on October 12, 2012, though his actions did not amount to gross incompetence.

Assistant Chief Constable Jacques said: “First and foremost I would like to sincerely apologise to Mr Farmer on behalf of the constabulary for what happened that evening and the resulting distress and anxiety he undoubtedly suffered.

“The officer made a dreadful mistake when he discharged his Taser, but was acting on a reasonable and honestly held belief that his actions were necessary to protect the public.

“The officer did not perform his duties to a satisfactory standard but we did not feel that this amounted to gross incompetence.

“In addition to the findings relating to the individual officer this investigation has raised a number of issues for the constabulary to consider including the training given to officers carrying Taser.”

PC Wright will be issued with a Written Improvement Notice and be required to demonstrate specific performance improvements over a set timescale.

Additionally, said Lancashire Police, the officer has expressed considerable regret over this incident and arrangements will be made for him to offer a personal apology to Mr Farmer.

The IPCC report found that PC Wright:

• Ignored instructions and radio transmissions about how officers were to search the area and respond to any sightings of a man with a sword.

• Failed to take reasonable steps to ascertain if Mr Farmer was carrying a sword prior to Taser discharge.

• Failed to comply with local and national guidelines in relation to the use of Taser.

• Used a level of force on Mr Farmer that was unnecessary and disproportionate to the circumstances.

• Caused further distress to Mr Farmer by detaining him in handcuffs despite it being obvious he had the wrong man.

The IPCC recommended the officer had a case to answer for gross misconduct.

IPCC Commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone said: “Mr Farmer was subjected to what must have been a terrifying ordeal. Our view was that PC Wright could and should have listened to instructions from his force controller and taken greater steps to ascertain whether Mr Farmer was the sword-carrying man that had been reported by members of the public and when he realised his mistake should have acted quicker to put things right. There is public concern about use of force, and, particularly, Taser. Incidents such as this do little to ease that concern.

“I hope that the personal apology to Mr Farmer allows the officer to reassure him that he will learn lessons from these events and that the improvement plan for the officer and measures taken by the force to improve its training and communications prevent further incidents such as this.”