LONDON: Over 1,800 additional police officers in the UK will be armed with Taser stun guns to deal with growing terrorist attacks and knife crime, the Scotland Yard announced today.
The move will see a further 1,867 police officers carry the Taser gun as a personal protection equipment on the front line, bringing the total number trained and carrying such stun guns to over 6,400 officers.
"Keeping the public safe from harm is at the heart of our job. With this uplift, my officers will be better equipped to protect the public and themselves. We know that the mere presence of a Taser is often enough to defuse a dangerous situation and often get a suspect to drop their weapon if they’re armed," Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said.
"Taser reduces the need for physical contact and also the risk of unintended or unnecessary injuries to all parties. With the roll-out of body worn camera to every uniformed officer, the public can also rest assured that the use of Taser is correctly recorded and monitored and that the use of it is subject to comprehensive scrutiny,” she said.
The expansion programme will begin over the coming weeks and the training regime is expected to take around two years.
The Met said the decision has been taken by the Commissioner following an increase in violent crime, including knife crime, as well as a steady increase in the number of assaults sustained by police officers in recent years.
Knife crime offences have risen by 24 per cent in the year 2016-17 compared with 2015-16.
Assaults against officers have also increased from 2,211 in 2014 to 2,486 in 2015; and to 2,676 in 2016.
Over the past three years, the vast majority (87 per cent) of occasions where a Taser was drawn have been resolved without the officer having to discharge it, meaning a violent or potentially violent situation is de-escalated and brought to a swift conclusion, the Met said. All officers have to go through a selection and training process to ensure they are equipped with the right aptitude and skills to use Taser on the front line.
Around 1,730 of the newly-trained officers will be from London’s boroughs, with the remainder based on other specialist units across the Met.
Scotland Yard highlighted that the use of stun guns is strictly recorded and monitored both within the Met and independently by the Home Office and MOPAC (Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime).
In addition, every uniformed officer equipped with Taser will be equipped with body worn camera by the end of 2017, giving further transparency to how it is used by officers.
Figures on its usage on every London borough are also published quarterly on the Met’s website. Taser has been safely and effectively used by the Met since 2003 and along with other tactical options, such as baton, cuffs and CS spray, is considered when officers are faced with violence or threats of violence that officers would need to use force in order to protect either the public, the subject themselves, or fellow colleagues.
Taser creates space between the subject and police, reducing the need for physical contact and also the risk of unintended or unnecessary injuries to all parties, the Met said.
Currently, the Met’s policy is for officers carrying Taser to be “double crewed” (i.e. two equipped officers are deployed together).
However, this will also change with the expansion, with the Met falling in line with national guidelines adopted by majority of other UK police forces where response officers will still be deployed in twos, but only one need be equipped with a Taser, as well as enabling officers on single patrol to carry Taser.