Hampshire Constabulary has just announced that any and all officers that want to carry a 50,000 volt Taser stun gun will be allowed to do so in future. The roll out will begin by doubling the number of Taser trained staff who will attend a 3 day course. A recent staff survey suggested that 90% of the force's 2,896 officers want to take up the offer.
Tasers cost in the region of £200 on the retail market [NB they are illegal in the UK] although bulk purchases will attract a significant discount. Nevertheless if 2,600 officers take up the offer it represents a significant investment in front line policing.
According to a Police Federation survey released in December 2016 the public support the use of Tasers by the police with an Ipsos Mori poll of 2004 people indicating that 71% were supportive.
Hampshire was the first force to issue officers with body worn cameras so it has something of a reputation of being at the forefront of technological advances in policing. The cameras will be a valuable source of evidence when Tasers are used.
How long before the Sussex force adopts the same strategy? Sussex Police Union leaders have been calling for precisely that since 2012.
The UK has had an unarmed police force since its inception in 1829 and to this day there is a great reluctance to carry guns like most forces in Europe. The Taser, although sometimes controversial and not without its critics, has shown itself to be a realistic alternative to guns that rarely results in death although there are a handful of cases where its use has been linked to the subsequent death of individuals.
It is tempting to assume that more Tasers in the hands of officers means increased use of the weapons. Great care must be taken to ensure that the same strict guidelines [a weapon of last resort] continue to apply if the public's trust and support is to be maintained.
Photo courtesy of Taser.com