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'Soon Tasers will be kit for every officer'
9:30am Friday 11th January 2013 in Countywide
THE number of police officers armed with Tasers will more than double as it was last night claimed eventually all officers would have one.
Twice as many officers are to be equipped with the 50,000 volt electric shock guns this year.
Chief constable Sara Thornton asked a working group to review Thames Valley Police’s use of the weapon last year after attacks on police rose from about 160 five years ago to more than 200 between April 2011 and March 2012.
Currently 205 firearms officers, five per cent of the 4,200-strong force, are trained to use the laser-sighted weapons.
Now 280 front line response officers will be trained and equipped between April and October, meaning 11 per cent of the force will have Tasers.
The news has led to speculation that every police officer in the Thames Valley could eventually be armed with Tasers.
Andy Viney, secretary of Thames Valley Police Federation, last night said it was “inevitable” the weapon would be given to every officer in the force.
He said batons caused more serious and lasting injuries, adding: “It’s a good news story for our officers and it’s a good news story for the public.
“There is a false perception because the shape of the Taser is like a gun – it looks more dangerous than it is.”
He added: “Eventually it will be a piece of kit for every officer. I think it’s inevitable.
“It’s not a gun. We are still an unarmed police force.”
He said officers would have extensive training and would be accountable for every use of the Taser.
The force started using the stun-guns in 2004.
There are now 170 available to officers and this will increase to 270.
The use of Tasers was authorised 833 times by the force between April 2011 to March 2012 but they were only fired 13 times. They were deployed for 393 incidents involving weapons, 121 threats of self harm or suicide, and 107 domestic incidents.
The use of Tasers was approved 704 times in 2009/10 but they were only fired 12 times.
Ms Thornton said the Tasers would not be used more than necessary.
She said: “This increase in the number of Taser-trained officers will provide further protection to the communities and officers across Thames Valley Police, as well as providing more officers with the ability to deal with those individuals who are prepared to use severe levels of violence against others.
“Officers will be specially selected and trained for this role and I am satisfied that the continued use of the Taser device across the force area will only be considered in those cases where it is necessary and proportionate to the behaviour the officers encounter.”
When asked whether all officers could be given the guns, she said: “As chief constable I have a responsibility to ensure that my officers are equipped to do the difficult job I ask of them.
“It is right that we have increased the availability of Tasers in line with other forces and we will keep our approach under review.”
Supt Tony Ismay, head of tactical support, said in the average police force just under 11.5 per cent of officers had Tasers.
He said the increase was needed as over the past three years Thames Valley officers had needed to use Tasers more and more.
He added: “The force has also seen a gradual increase in the number of assaults on officers over the same three-year period.”