Police revolt over Government’s decision to let untrained officers use Taser guns
(DAILY MAIL) Police are in revolt over the Government’s decision to hand controversial Taser guns to officers with only 18 hours of training.
At least two forces have snubbed updated Home Office policy to make the weapons available to 30,000 nonspecialist officers, ending the practice of issuing them solely to highly-trained firearms squads.
Several others have yet to reach a decision amid concerns the use of Tasers by rank-and-file police could harm public confidence.
The rebellion by the Metropolitan Police and Sussex Police was revealed in Freedom of Information requests made to forces by the Liberal Democrats.
It came as research by the Daily Mail showed police turn Tasers on the public seven times every day.
The weapons – which deliver a 50,000-volt charge to their target – are also being fired at children.
Home Office figures show that from December 1, 2007, to the end of last year, police threatened to use them on suspects 2,672 times – a 194 per cent increase on the previous three years combined.
The number of discharges of the weapons was 660, up 126 per cent.
Other figures show police fired Tasers at under-18s 28 times from January 2007 to August 2008.
Since being introduced in 2004, they have been brandished 4,046 times and discharged 1,181 times.
LibDem home affairs spokesman Tom Brake said: ‘Tasers should be left in the hands of speciallytrained firearms officers.
‘By making Tasers available to 30,000 officers we are descending down the slippery slope towards fully-armed, U.S.-style policing.
‘ Having police patrolling the streets would be of more benefit to the public than locking them away for two days and training them to use deadly weapons. Tasers have killed over 300 in America since 2001, yet the Home Office maintains they are non-lethal.
‘It would be far better to spend tight police budgets putting more bobbies on the beat than on putting Tasers in their pockets.
‘It is ridiculous that the Home Office is lavishing millions on Tasers when some forces do not want any more.’
Last November, the then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced plans to buy 10,000 Tasers and train 30,000 officers to use them.
Training will use up 60,000 police days and cost nearly £10million. The Home Office has spent £8million on buying Tasers. Officials hoped all
forces would allow non-specialist officers to carry the weapons, following a pilot programme in ten parts of the country.
But, of the 33 forces who replied to LibDem inquiries, the Met and Sussex Police said they would not be giving Tasers to non-firearms officers.
South Yorkshire and Devon and Cornwall Constabulary have not decided and Cleveland Police are not introducing any new Taser weapons.
Sussex said: ‘We are not extending Tasers beyond firearms officers.’
The Metropolitan Police Authority said: ‘The MPA has not been advised by the Met that there is any urgent operational demand for extra Tasers.
‘Members of the authority are also conscious of their responsibility to reinforce the confidence of the public in the police. This could be affected by an uncalled-for increase in the deployment of Tasers, which are still widely perceived as oppressive.’
The Independent Police Complaints Commission has begun an inquiry into an incident in Nottingham last Monday where a 40-year-old man on the floor was Tasered up to three times as he was punched by police.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We have one of the few police services that do not regularly carry firearms and are keen to keep it that way.
‘We have undertaken unprecedented testing of Tasers, submitted these devices for independent medical assessment and are advised the risk of death or serious injury is very low.
‘The former Home Secretary approved Tasers for officers facing violence or threats of violence of such severity that they need to use force to protect the public, themselves or the people threatening violence.’