Hand volunteer constables Tasers to feel safe, urges police boss

Giving volunteer police officers powers to use Tasers will allow them to safely patrol the "dangerous" streets of the West Midlands, a senior officer has said.

Richard Cooke
Richard Cooke

Richard Cooke, chairman of West Midlands Police Federation, said the Home Secretary's move was the "least" special constables deserved to keep them safe.

The move will need to be authorised by chief officers but will aim to ensure they are not "at a disadvantage" when specials take on an armed attacker or terrorist.

But it has not been welcomed by all, with Amnesty International UK's policing expert warning arming volunteer officers was "dangerous" as they slammed the move.

Mr Cooke said: "I wholeheartedly support this – the least the specials deserve, and regular officers deserve, is to have this basic protection of Taser training – and the thing with Tasers, it's even proven to be the safest option for officers who are dealing with any sort of violent incident.

"You get Amnesty International saying it's dangerous, but that's absolute nonsense. It's appearance is like a gun and so it seems to create this over-sensitivity around it, but in our force in the last 20 to 25 years or so, if you look at deaths involving police contact – there's about 24, so three or four have been people shot dead by the police because of whatever reason, and the other 20 or so comes from physical restraint, having to use that necessary force to restrain someone.

"The point being is that Taser removes the need to go hands on and reduces the physical altercation."

The senior police officer said the method was the "safest option" available to officers, but stressed it was down to the chief constable to make a decision in the region – but added he was hopeful the move will be backed.

Mr Cooke around 200 police officers are assaulted a month in the region, with officers deserving of the protection a Taser provides – with evidence suggesting officers are nine times less likely to be assaulted if carrying one.

The volunteers will receive the same Taser training as constables, with deployment of the weapons remaining an operational matter for police chiefs under Government plans.

The Home Office said there are currently 8,901 special constables in forces in England and Wales, who are fully trained and undertake the same duties as regular police officers.

It comes as ministers were set to update Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday on the progress being made to tackle crime and restore confidence in the justice system.

Oliver Feeley-Sprague, Amnesty International UK's policing expert and a member of the independent advisory group to the National Police Chiefs' Council lead on Tasers, said: "Arming volunteer officers is a dangerous expansion of Taser use and will inevitably lead to the increased firing of Tasers and more instances of misuse, serious harm and death from Tasers.

"It's our understanding that specials will be subject to a rigours assessment prior to being selected to undergo Taser training, but arming volunteers who receive less training overall and do less hours on the job is a worrying erosion of safeguards over Taser misuse.

"Tasers are potentially lethal weapons, linked to hundreds of deaths in the USA and a growing number in Britain, and we've always said that UK police forces needed to restrict their use to highly-trained specialist officers, trained on a par with officers carrying firearms."

The use of Tasers sparked concerns once again last year with the trial of former Aston Villa star Dalian Atkinson, who died after being Tasered for six times longer than is standard and kicked twice.

Prosecutors claimed Pc Benjamin Monk, 42, kept the trigger of the Taser depressed for 33 seconds during its third use – more than six times longer than a standard five-second deployment period.

Monk was found guilty of the manslaughter of ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson but cleared of his murder after a trial at Birmingham Crown Court. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

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