More police armed with Tasers will protect officers from the kinds of “sickening attacks” some constables have suffered in recent months, the Scotland Yard Commissioner has said.
Dame Cressida Dick inspected officers training to use the powerful electro-shock devices at Shoreditch station on Friday as the UK’s biggest force prepares to double the number of Taser-trained officers since her appointment.
Officers currently undergo 18 hours of intensive training, including scenario-based live instruction, over three days before they are qualified to carry the high-voltage weapons on the streets.
Dame Cressida said when she became Commissioner in 2017 there were some 4,500 Taser-trained officers in the Metropolitan Police, which will rise to 10,000 “in the next couple of years”.
She told the PA News Agency: “In my view looking at the threats the public and my officers face, more Taser is required and we are doing a big uplift to take to 10,000 in the next couple of years … highly mobile, highly available, there to protect the public and indeed themselves and their colleagues.”
The commissioner added: “These are people who are fit, good decision-makers, experienced on the street and will be restrained in the use of Taser.”
Tasers, which fire two small dart-like electrodes before delivering a high-voltage shock to temporarily incapacitate a suspect, allow officers to deal with violent people at a distance of around seven to 15 feet.
The push to increase Taser use comes as the number of assaults on Pcs resulting in injury in the past year has jumped by more than a quarter, the latest official figures show.
There were 10,399 incidents recorded between April 2018 and March this year – 2,242 more than the 8,157 in the same period the previous year, according to the Office for National Statistics.
A national debate over whether every officer should carry the device was ignited after a series of serious attacks on police in August, including the death of Pc Andrew Harper, who was dragged under a van when he was called to a burglary.
Earlier in the same month, Pc Gareth Phillips, a 42-year-old West Midlands Police traffic officer, suffered life-changing injuries when he was run over by a suspected car thief in Birmingham.
And Metropolitan Police constable Stuart Outten, 28, was hailed after deploying a Taser while injured to incapacitate an alleged machete attacker in Leyton, east London.
Dame Cressida went on: “There have been some sickening attacks on officers over the last few months.
“Very high profile, horrible things – for example our officer Stuart Outten, who was subject to tremendously shocking injuries across his head and hand.
“Taser is a really, really powerful piece of kit to take on people who are violent, take on people who are carrying weapons, and to do so in a manner which is safe for everybody including that person.
“I am pleased that I have so many officers who want to carry Taser now.”
More than eight out of 10 police officers want to carry stun guns and would feel safer with the devices, a recent Police Federation poll suggested.
The research found 89% of 6,800 officers who responded would like to carry Taser or similar electro-shock weapons.
Of those questioned, 81% said it would make them feel safer while on duty. In total, 97% of officers said colleagues should be allowed to routinely carry the devices.
Last year, the maximum jail term for people who attack emergency services workers was increased from six to 12 months.