Israeli Police Order Hundreds More Tasers, Half Slated for Use in Arab Communities

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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A police officer armed with a taser.
A police officer armed with a taser.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

The police will be allocating half of the hundreds of new tasers it is set to purchase to officers working in Arab communities, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has decided.

Based on a recommendation of the operations division head, Maj. Gen. Avi Biton, the police will purchase 400 new tasers, to be added to the approximately 3,100 tasers now in use. The police consider the taser a less lethal and effective means of avoiding live fire at suspects. The cost of the tasers is estimated at 3 million shekels ($928,000).

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The decision to allocate 200 of the new tasers to police work in Arab communities comes in the wake of the spate of violence there. Shabtai also decided to assign a special force of motorcycle police to provide an immediate response in cases where lives are in danger, and to recruit hundreds of police officers to serve in Arab communities. About 150 tasers will be allocated to riot police on motorcycles and a few dozen will replace outmoded ones. The rest will be assigned to officers to be recruited in the year ahead to serve in Arab communities.

Before Shabtai became commissioner, he was one of those responsible for bringing tasers into the service of the Israel Police. “The taser is a very efficient tool for use in exceptional circumstances, alongside the other tools officers have in the field in incidents requiring use of force, and live fire should be avoided,” a police official said.

Recent years have seen a rise in complaints over police use of tasers, including the claim that it can cause serious injury and even death. As a result, instructions for the use of tasers were changed, affecting, for instance, the number of times a taser can be used against a suspect.

The state comptroller has recently criticized the lack of supervision of the use of tasers. “The police have no data that coordinates all the exceptional incidents of the use of tasers by police units,” he said. Although the police are required to report incidents in which a taser was used, the comptroller found that a gap of hundreds of instances existed in 2018 and 2019 between police reports and complaints by citizens over the use of tasers against them included in police data.

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