Dear Lothian & Borders Police,
Could you please state:
A. The number of tasers you own
B. The number of officers authorised in their use
C. The number of officers routinely equipped with a taser.
D. The total number of officers in your force.
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Dear Mr Moss,
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION (SCOTLAND) ACT 2002 - Request for Information
Thank you for your email, which I have dealt with under the above act.
A. The number of tasers you own?
I am afraid that I am unable to provide you with the number of Conductive Electrical Devices (Tasers) held by Lothian and Borders Police. Whilst the total number of a type of weapon held by a police force may be of general interest to the public, the release of this information would indicate what tactical options exist in a given situation. This knowledge would make those tactical options less effective and lead to the endangerment of everyone involved: the individual(s), the community, and the officers themselves. This information is therefore considered exempt under the following sections of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002: section 35(1) information that would be likely to prejudice substantially (a) the prevention and detection of crime, (b) the apprehension or the prosecution of offenders; and section 39(1) Information that would, or would be likely to, endanger the physical and mental health or the safety of an individual.
B. The number of officers authorised in their use?
All Authorised Firearms Officers can use Taser guns. This figure can change on a daily basis, but, at present, stands at 103 officers.
C. The number of officers routinely equipped with a taser?
As with question A, I am afraid that I am unable to provide you with the number of officers that are routinely equipped with a taser. For the reasons already outlined above, release of this information would indicate our tactical capabilities and is therefore considered exempt under the following sections of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002: section 35(1) information that would be likely to prejudice substantially (a) the prevention and detection of crime, (b) the apprehension or the prosecution of offenders; and section 39(1) Information that would, or would be likely to, endanger the physical and mental health or the safety of an individual.
D. The total number of officers in your force?
3025 police officers in L&B on 31.03.11
If you have any questions about the above or I can help in any other way, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me again. However, under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, you have the right to appeal if you are dissatisfied with the way in which we have dealt with your enquiry. This should be done within 40 working days of receiving this email. If you wish to appeal please contact Rachel Watson, Head of Force Information Unit, Lothian and Borders Police, Police Headquarters, Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh, EH4 1RB. Please note that subsequent to this internal review there is a right of appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner, Kinburn Castle, Doubledykes Road, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9DS.
Force Information Unit
Dear Lothian & Borders Police,
Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.
I am writing to request an internal review of Lothian & Borders Police's handling of my FOI request 'Taser Usage'.
I'm afraid I do not feel that the exemption offered to refuse parts A and C of my request is a reasonable use, as evidence by the numerous other forces which have answered identical questions and the distance from the data I am requesting to any individual operations.
A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
Dear Ms Moss,
I refer to your email in which you requested an internal review in relation to the non-disclosure of the number of Tasers owned by Lothian and Borders Police and the number of officers routinely equipped with this weapon. I am sorry that my response to you has taken some time, the delay was due in part to my summer holiday, and also to allow full consultation and to carefully consider all the arguments in this case especially as ACPO forces have been able to release this information.
Having fully considered all the issues again, however, I am afraid that I must agree with the use of the exemption contained within section 35 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (Law Enforcement) in relation to this information. What we must not do is release information under Freedom of Information that will in any way undermine or detract from our ability to properly enforce the law, prevent and detect crime, and protect the community.
The number of weapons (of every type) held by the force is determined by the Strategic Threat and Risk Assessment: this is reviewed annually and is based upon current intelligence and perceived risks within the force area. To release details of the number of any particular weapon available to us, and in what numbers they are carried, would, clearly, inform those who wish to commit criminal acts of the potential level of police response likely to be deployed at any one time - especially when it is put together with other information in the public domain such as the number to Armed Response Vehicles we have and the number of Authorised Firearms Officers. Such knowledge will, inevitably, allow serious and organised crime groups to arm themselves sufficiently to overcome the police response and that would not be in the public interest.
The public interest test is key in this assessment and I agree, especially in this time of constrained budgets and heightened security awareness, that details of the precise capabilities of Lothian and Borders Police would inform public debate and provide accountability for public funds particularly in terms of this relatively new piece of equipment. However, on this occasion, I believe that the public safety arguments in favour of maintaining the exemption are stronger. We cannot allow police forces in Scotland, and Lothian and Borders in particular, to enter into an arms race with criminal groups and I am afraid it is impossible to ignore the fact that revealing details of the weaponry available would directly inform/influence criminal planning and activity. They will arm themselves appropriately and police forces would then have to bolster their armoury to meet the increased threat. The only consequence of this would be more danger to the public as a whole as the resolution of law enforcement incidents could increasingly depend upon who had the most effective weapons.
Whilst I recognise that England and Wales publish this type of information, I am sure you will understand that each force must assess disclosure on its own merits. You must remember that every force is not the same. There are substantial differences, in terms of geography, population densities, policing culture, and size of force establishments north and south of the border that cannot be ignored. Forces in densely populated areas with multiple force boundaries will assess the harm in disclosing this type of information differently as they are more able to rely upon quick and effective mutual aid if required from neighbouring forces. You must recognise that this is not as possible for Scottish forces, all of whom serve significant rural areas, and this has an impact upon the public interest arguments I must consider when deciding whether it is appropriate to release the number of tasers owned and routinely carried by officers within Lothian and Borders Police. The deterrent effect of not knowing how easy, or difficult, it is to overcome any police response must not be underestimated and the only way to leave doubt in the minds of criminal groups is simply not to disclose information on our exact resources. The overwhelming public interest, which is regularly tested in public opinion polls, is for the police to prevent and detect crime and to effectively apprehend and prosecute offenders. Tasers are an essential tactical option available to the force which can be used when otherwise other lethal options would be used; it is not in the public interest to release any information that would, in any way, detract from their effective deployment. For this reason, and all of the above, I am afraid that I consider it appropriate to uphold the use of the section 35 exemption to this part of your request.
If you have any questions, or if I can help in any other way, please do contact me again. However, if you remain unhappy with how we have dealt with your request, you have the right to appeal to the Information Commissioner for Scotland, whose address is: Kinburn Castle, Doubledykes Road, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9DS.
Force Information Unit
Lothian and Borders Police
Dear Lothian and Borders Police,
While I am disappointed with the decision, I accept it and your reason for the delay. Many thanks for all the time you put into this and the help you were able to provide.
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