Police to get 10,000 Taser guns
Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, is to arm police with 10,000 Taser stun guns in an escalation of the government’s fight against violent crime.
Smith will unveil plans tomorrow that will enable all 30,000 front-line response officers to be trained in firing the electric guns at knife-wielding thugs and other violent suspects.
Smith said yesterday that £8m will be made available to all 43 police forces in England and Wales to buy the new 50,000-volt weapons.
She said their use will be extended from small units of dedicated firearms officers to up to 30,000 police response officers across the country.
Officials say the gun could be be used against anyone who put the lives or safety of officers and the public at risk. That includes aggressive drunken yobs, knife-wielding criminals and those who go “berserk” in public. A Taser was successfully used against a fugitive suicide bomber who was captured in Birmingham after the failed July 2005 suicide attacks.
The move to widen the use of Tasers will be criticised by human rights groups and medical experts concerned about the dangers of the powerful guns. Amnesty International says the guns should be restricted to just a “small number” of highly trained officers. It points to cases of fatalities such as that of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant, who died after being Tasered when he began throwing things after waiting for 10 hours at Vancouver airport last year. Smith, however, is a keen Taser fan. She believes they are essential to protect the safety of frontline officers and will reduce deaths caused by police shooting suspects with real guns.