Up to 60% of police officers could get Tasers, Priti Patel pledges

Up to 60% of police officers could be equipped with Tasers under plans announced by Priti Patel as she outlined proposals aimed at making the Tories appear tough on crime.

The Home Secretary committed funding to tackle county lines gangs that exploit children and other vulnerable people during a speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Tuesday.

Ms Patel, the daughter of Ugandan Asians, also reiterated a tough stance on immigration ahead of an anticipated general election, pledging to “end the free movement of people once and for all”.

Saying law and order is “central to our DNA as Conservatives”, Ms Patel pledged a £10 million ringfenced fund to equip up to 60% of police officers with Tasers.

“It is the job of chief constables to make that operational decision,” she told the conference.

“It is the job of the Home Secretary to empower them to do so. I am giving them that power.”

And Ms Patel – warning criminals “we are coming after you” – promised a £20 million investment to aid in identifying and dismantling county lines drugs gangs.

“The kingpins of these criminal gangs are exploiting children,” she said.

“Forcing them to carry crack cocaine and heroin across rural and coastal communities, threatening them into carrying guns and knives as ‘protection’, manipulating them into killing innocent people.”

Home Secretary Priti Patel making her keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference
Home Secretary Priti Patel making her keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference (Danny Lawson/PA)

A dedicated British Transport Police unit with visible and undercover officers will be tasked with disrupting the movement of drugs and people in gangs.

Victims of gangs will receive greater support with the number of specialist caseworkers being expanded, and the national county lines co-ordination centre will also grow to increase intelligence sharing.

Mark Russell, the chief executive of the Children’s Society charity, said the funding is “a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed to tackle county lines”.

“While it’s vital that the police focus their efforts on disrupting this exploitation, apprehending the real ring-leaders and protecting communities, it’s also crucial that children get the help they need to stay safe,” he said.

Ms Patel also pledged a £25 million “safer streets fund” for new security measures to tackle Britain’s “worst crime spots”.

Funding would be made available to Police and Crime Commissioners to invest in preventative measures to tackle burglaries, thefts and shoplifting.

Ms Patel also reiterated a plan to recruit 20,000 new police officers and the commitment to introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system after Brexit.

She said her role as Home Secretary at this “defining moment” has a particular brief when it “comes to taking back control”.

“It is to end the free movement of people once and for all,” Ms Patel said.

She added: “This daughter of immigrants needs no lectures from the north London metropolitan liberal elite.”

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