The way UK cops subdued a terror suspect reveals a key difference between policing in Britain and America

UK police taserScreenshot via The GuardianLondon Metropolitan Police subdued and arrested the stabbing suspect using only a Taser.

In what London’s Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) called a terror attack on Sunday, a man stands accused of stabbing three people in an east London Tube station and shouting, “This is for Syria.”

Despite facing a combative and armed suspect, officers subdued and arrested him using only Tasers.

UK cops typically don’t carry guns, except for specially trained “firearms officers.” No firemarms officers were present during Sunday’s knife attack though, a spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told Business Insider via email. 

The lack of guns starkly contrasts America’s hyper-militarised police culture, in which officers of varying ranks, by default, arm themselves with — and unfortunately, use — guns. In all fairness though, America, has significantly more guns, in general, than the UK. It’s actually illegal for civilians in the UK to own most guns.

So far in 2015, 1,058 people have died at the hands of US police — the vast majority by gunshot, according to “The Counted,” the Guardian’s project monitoring police-involved deaths. By contrast, this year British police fatally shot two people  — and in 2013, the number stayed at zero, according to Inquest, a UK advocacy group. 

Chuck Drago  —  a former police chief in Florida with over 30 years of experience — attributes the high number of police shootings in America, in part, to the way US police departments train their officers.

“Police officers in the US have become overly reliant on the firearm,” he told Business Insider via email. “We have done a great job teaching officers how to use a firearm, and police officers have become very proficient with them …. However, we haven’t done such a good job training officer in lower levels of force. ” 

These lower levels of force can include weapons less lethal than guns, like Tasers and other kinds of stun guns, according to Drago, who now acts as consultant for various law enforcement groups. Effective communication can also negate the need for weapons. Many police, however, may not feel as comfortable with these methods and instead turn to their holsters. 

“A police officer in crisis will jump to the firearm quicker than other forms of force because he/she feels the most confident with the firearm,” Drago added. “We are not teaching police officers communication skills or how to be proficient with less lethal defensive skills.”

Out of the Metropolitan Police’s 32,000 officers, only about 2,000 are trained to carry guns, according to AFP.

The UK’s College of Policing also oversees firearms training nationally, which highlights another way Britain’s policing procedures differ from those in the US: A high degree of standardization exists among UK departments, according to Andy Griffiths, a 30-year-veteran of the Sussex Police. 

In the US, no national standards exist that specify the level of force police can use, according to the National Institute of Justice. Even with regard to training, police departments in different cities and states act fairly autonomously. Accreditation with organisations like The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) for instance, remain optional.

“Florida couldn’t give a s— what New York is doing,” Griffiths told Business Insider via Skype. “They want to be autonomous.” 

In the UK, legislation such as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984 (PACE) help set and regulate standards of behaviour for officers. 

To justify a shooting for example, US police have a great deal of leeway. If officers fear for their lives, they can use deadly force. Most departments review police-involved shootings internally. More recently, in cases of egregious force or where race may play a factor, the Justice Department has stepped in.

Over the pond, however, even the use of Tasers  — which comes with its own criticisms  — “is subject to intrusive monitoring”  from MPS, the Home Office and Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), and the Independent Firearms and TASER Reference Group, comprised of representatives from groups such as Amnesty International as well as the medical and mental health professions, a spokesperson for MPS told Business Insider.

In a world where US police have shot and killed unarmed (and even naked) suspects, many celebrated the Metropolitan Police’s restraint with an armed individual police considered a “terrorist.”

The video below shows the incident. WARNING: Some readers may find the content disturbing. 


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