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The decision to allow student officers access to Taser has been hailed as a ‘victory for our members and for common sense’ by the Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales.
The announcement was made today by the Policing Minister Nick Hurd MP in a written ministerial statement.
A package for training student officers has been drawn up by the College of Policing, but ultimately it will fall to individual Chief Constables to decide if their student officers will be given access to the equipment following financial and strategic threat assessments.
But the Government did not announce any new funding to support the change of policy.
John Apter, National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “The minister’s decision is absolutely the right one and this is a victory for our members and for common sense.
“Taser is a vital piece of protective equipment and The Federation has long campaigned for all officers – including those within their probation - who want to carry it and who pass the assessment criteria to be able to.
“The current makeup of the police service means that in some areas student officers form large percentages of the front-line emergency response and neighbourhood teams so it is only right that they should be given the opportunity to access this equipment which is proven to protect them and the public.”
Every time an officer draws a Taser – even if it is not discharged – it must be recorded and justified. This data is collated, with official use of force statistics published by the Home Office every year. Last year, out of 313,000 incidents where force was used by police officers, Taser was drawn in 17,000 cases and fired on just 2,000 occasions.
Mr Apter continued: “We are very much still as country that polices by consent. And given the huge number of incidents police officers attend, the number of times Taser is used remains very small. The mere presence of the equipment is often enough to de-escalate situations making it extremely effective.”
But he went on to warn that in order for this shift in policy to have any meaningful effect it needs dedicated money from the Government. He said “This announcement must be accompanied by a significant centrally-funded ring-fenced investment specifically for Taser provision.
“Chief Officers should be able to make vitally important operational decisions such as these based on the safety of their officers and the communities they serve, rather than the need to balance columns on a spreadsheet,” he concluded.