Number of police officers using Tasers could soar after funding boost
The number of police officers carrying Tasers could “dramatically increase” after a £10 million funding boost in a bid to protect them on duty in the wake of recent attacks.
The extra cash for forces could see more than 10,000 more officers carrying the devices, the Home Office said.
The decision follows a series of attacks on police officers and figures showing such assaults are on the rise.
But some campaigners raised concerns, claiming it showed a “wilful disregard” of the dangers stun guns pose.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said Tasers were an “important tactical option” for police in “potentially dangerous situations”, adding: “I’ve been completely appalled by the recent spate of serious assaults on police officers, which is why I’m giving chief constables the resources to dramatically increase the number of their officers who carry Tasers.
“They keep us safe and now I’m giving them what they need to keep themselves safe on the job.”
But campaign group Liberty said: “These plans are not just knee-jerk, they reflect a wilful disregard of the well-documented dangers Tasers pose.
“Tasers can and do kill.
“Arming every officer will normalise the use of Taser in routine police encounters, which risks escalating, rather than reducing, violence on our streets and will further corrode the fractured relationship between police and the communities they serve.
“These weapons should only be in the hands of specialist firearms officers.
“This proposal reflects an apparent determination to embrace policing by control, while sacrificing policing by consent.”
The Home Office said the ring-fenced money would help officers “protect themselves and the public from harm”.
Chief constables will decide how many officers in their forces carry the devices and they would have to be trained first.
Both Durham and Northamptonshire forces have announced they will allow every frontline officer who wanted a Taser to carry one on duty.
Earlier this year, some student officers were given permission by the Home Office to be trained in carrying them.
The Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said more officers in Britain’s largest police force will carry a Taser, but a fifth do not want to use the stun guns.
Human rights charity Amnesty International previously said officers were given comparatively little training before being given the responsibility of carrying the “extremely dangerous weapons”, so it was not surprising some did not want to use them.
But more than eight out of 10 police officers want to carry stun guns and would feel safer with the devices, a Police Federation poll suggested.
The research found 89% of 6,800 officers who responded would like to carry Taser or similar electroshock weapons.
Of those questioned, 81% said it would make them feel safer while on duty. In total, 97% of officers said colleagues should be allowed to routinely carry the devices.
The federation’s chairman John Apter branded the decision a “significant win”, adding: “I have been campaigning tirelessly for many months for Taser to be funded centrally.”
Among the high profile attacks on police officers this year is the death of Thames Valley Pc Andrew Harper, 28, who was killed while responding to reports of a burglary in Berkshire on August 15.
Earlier in the same month, Pc Gareth Phillips, a 42-year-old West Midlands Police traffic officer, suffered life-changing injuries when he was run over by a suspected car thief in Birmingham.
And Metropolitan Police constable Stuart Outten, 28, was left with head and hand injuries after challenging a motor offences suspect allegedly armed with a machete in Leyton, east London.
The latest official figures show a 27% rise in the number of assaults on Pcs resulting in injury in the last year.
According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 10,399 incidents recorded between April 2018 and March this year – 2,242 more than the 8,157 in the same period the previous year.
Last year, the maximum jail term for people who attack emergency services workers was increased from six to 12 months.