Police authorities are locked in a bitter row over whether training will be good enough to allow officers to carry Taser stun guns to fight crime on Britain’ streets.
Home secretary Jacqui Smith announced she would arm police with 10,000 Taser guns, and confirmed yesterday that all 30,000 frontline response officers would be trained in firing the electric guns at criminals and other violent suspects.
The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) was against the move, suggesting that despite training, the wider roll-out of Taser guns would cause fear and damage public confidence, and should be centrally controlled. But the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, defended the training available to officers, and forces’ ability to judge which officers could use the stun guns.
Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation, said: “The MPA has been wholly irresponsible suggesting the wider roll-out of Taser will cause fear and damage public confidence in the police. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to show this has been the case during the past year in any of the 10 pilot sites.
“The MPA’s inference that Tasers will be deployed to all Metropolitan officers without the necessary skills and training needed to use it appropriately and proportionately is a slur on the professionalism of police officers in London and across the country, and demonstrates a lack of understanding of how, when and where Tasers will be deployed as part of this extended roll-out.”
But the MPA told the Times: “We recognise the potential to cause fear and damage public confidence if the use of Tasers is extended to non-specialist trained police officers and is perceived by the public to be indiscriminate.
“There is no doubt that in some circumstances Tasers are a very effective alternative to firearms or asps [metal batons], but their use must be tightly controlled, and we have seen no case made out to extend their availability.”
Smith said £8m would be made available to all 43 police forces in England and Wales to buy the new 50,000-volt weapons, following successful trials of the stun guns throughout the country.