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Public Weighs in On Taser Training for Police Officers

Yesterday’s announcement from Acting Police Commissioner Mark Payne that local officers are being trained to use Tasers has been met with heightened concern from members of the public.

Commissioner Payne said that 24 officers in the Royal Montserrat Police Service (RMPS) are currently receiving training on the use of the personal protection devices. More officers are to be trained to use the devices in the near future.

In a recorded video message on the RMPS Facebook page, the commissioner said “Currently our police officers do not have access to any equipment that allows them to safely deal with a risk posed by somebody using a knife or bladed weapon. This means that they cannot effectively protect the public or themselves when faced with such a situation. TASERs provide them with an effective way to keep the public safe.”

A close-up of a black man's hand holding an electrified taser weapon. The taser has a sleek, modern design with visible blue electric arcs between its prongs.

Entrepreneur, Jessica Towers asked online “When have you ever had any incidents that warrants the use of a taser or safety issues? When was the last knife attack on Montserrat? Majorly concerned.”

To which the Commissioner responded: “As you rightly point out, crime rates on Montserrat are very low. That said, our officers do sometimes have to respond to incidents where knives are present or threatened, and we do not know when the next incident might occur. My job is to make sure that officers are able to protect the public and themselves, and currently there is a gap in our capability that Taser will help fill. I do not expect to see Taser used regularly, and we have lots of checks and balances in place that if we have to, senior officers have to authorize and review any deployments. I hope that helps to reassure you.”

Stephen Mendes commented that “Tasers are not a safe alternative to what is being currently used. Especially as they can cause adverse reactions and even death to persons with heart and neuro-disorders, which sadly are hard to detect with our current health facilities.”

Ivoline Benjamin Lake added “Not a good idea. The Montserrat community does not require the use of taser, in my opinion. Disappointing move Commissioner. I would say aggressive move on his part as well.”

Former Speaker of the House, Shirley Osborne commented: “No, there is no ‘gap in your capability that a taser will help fill’. No, not one Montserratian is ‘reassured’ by your statement. The reality is that you and your folks are seeking to impose the standards you use in your cities on our little island which, as you must be aware, have nothing in common. The levels of violence that you find yourself responding to in your country do not exist in Montserrat. Furthermore, the level of violence that police officers in your country so often unleash onto your citizens will not be accommodated in Montserrat. So, no tasers, thank you very much. We feel we’d be much safer with them gone.”

Former Inspector in the RMPS Billy Darroux noted that “I am an example of the need for means to protect officers. I bear the marks, as well as a few other officers through the years. I’ve seen and read for myself, and Montserrat has its share of violence. It’s not nice to swallow, but sometimes it’s necessary. I’ve even been in one case involving a police officer where this would have helped prevent his partner from getting hurt. Read Montserrat stats per capita and process it.”

The Taser training and certification is being facilitated by Officers from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) and is part of the new acting commissioner’s plan to upskill RMPS officers in Investigation, Neighbourhood Policing, Safeguarding and Intelligence.