The number of tasers issued to police across the Thames Valley is to more than double, it was announced today.
The controversial electric stuns guns will now be given to 485 trained officers, a rise of 280. It means 11% of all Thames Valley officers will be armed with tasers.
Police chiefs say the move comes after a rise in the number of incidents over the last three years where firearms officers have had to provide support to unarmed colleagues. A working group was set up last year to look into the issue and pressure for arming officers increased in September when two policewoman were killed in a gun and grenade attack in Manchester.
Assistant Chief Constable John Campbell said: “These are incidents where officers are faced with someone who is threatening violence or has the potential to cause significant harm to officers or members of the public, on many occasions the offender will be believed to be carrying weapons.
“Over the same three year period we have also experienced a rise in the number of assaults on officers and staff.
“This move will provide further protection to the communities and officers across Thames Valley.”
Over the past three years the number of times taser-armed officers have been called to incidents has increased from 795 in 2010, to 842 in 2011 and 936 in 2012.
Despite this, the number of times the devices have been discharged in Thames Valley is low. Tasers were only fired 16 times in 2012 in incidents where officers armed with them were deployed.
The force first issued tasers to officers in 2004. Currently only firearms officers are permitted to carry and use them.
Mr Campbell said the move would bring the force into line with others around the country.
Chief Constable Sara Thornton said: “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.
“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.”