Catalan police to start using stun guns

Catalonia’s regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, are to start using stun guns from this year. The region’s home affairs department is planning to purchase around 100 electroshock weapons to be handed out among officers, Catalan authorities reported. Mossos will have to take a course before they will be allowed to use the guns, and internal guidelines will establish in which specific situations they may be employed.

“This is not a rash decision, it is an option,” said Catalan home affairs chief Ramón Espalader in an interview with TV-3 regional television. His department has not yet bought the weapons, nor has it released a date for the public bidding for the contract, but everything suggests the winner will be the US company Taser, which dominates the market. The model that Catalan police have used in their preliminary studies is the Taser X26P, which can be used either in direct contact with the target or at distances of up to seven metres.

The electric shock lasts for five seconds and imitates the brain’s nerve signals, confusing the motor muscles and causing them to go stiff. As a result, the individual collapses and remains temporarily immobilised. The stun gun debate arose in the region in October 2013, when a local businessman died after being violently restrained by police in the Barcelona neighbourhood of El Raval. Six officers involved in the incident are facing a homicide investigation and an 11 year prison term if tried and found guilty.

Since then, police unions have renewed their calls to be allowed to use electroshock weapons, which would enable them to incapacitate violent subjects without the need for brute physical force. Some of the region’s local police agencies, including those in Badalona and Girona, are already using the devices. Elsewhere in Spain, electroshock weapons are commonly employed in Almería province and the Canary Islands.

But a new advocacy group called Stop Taser is working to prevent Catalan regional police from receiving the stun guns, and is also calling for local forces to stop using them. The group says the issue should be discussed in the regional parliament before a decision is made. “This cannot be the police’s decision, it is necessary to have a political and citizen debate first,” said Stop Taser spokesman Andrés García.

An Amnesty International report says 269 people died in the United States between 2001 and 2007 after being subjected to Taser guns. As yet, there are no records of any deaths or serious injuries in Spain related to the use of electroshock weapons.

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