Police Scotland U-turn on armed policing and 500 officers to get Tasers

568778 police scotland chief constable philip gormley left talks to police officers with tasers outside s
The force will scrap restrictions on the routine deployment of firearms officers.
Hundreds of Scottish police will be armed with Tasers next year, while restrictions on firearms officers are being lifted.

Police Scotland intends to give 500 frontline officers stun guns by August.

Meanwhile, specially trained armed police will be deployed to routine incidents for the first time since 2014.
Guidelines preventing them from being sent to all but the most serious emergencies were introduced after it emerged they were performing duties like traffic stops.

The restrictions will be relaxed in the new year, Police Scotland announced on Thursday.
Deputy chief constable Johnny Gwynne said: "Our officers are facing increasing threats of violence from people with knives and other bladed weapons.

"We've also seen an increase in the number of officers attacked while carrying out their everyday duties."

Police Scotland cited figures showing a 121% increase in the number of assaults on officers between 2014 and 2017.

Concerns about armed policing first hit the headlines in July 2014 after officers were photographed carrying handguns on the street in Inverness.

Then-chief constable Sir Stephen House later announced armed police would only be deployed to life-threatening incidents amid accusations that the force was becoming increasingly militarised.

John Finnie MSP, a former police officer and current justice spokesman for the Scottish Greens, said he believes the changes will cause alarm.

"I share public concerns about the deployment of more armed officers to routine incidents and greater deployment of Tasers," he said.

"Many people will be alarmed rather than reassured by these changes. Slowly but surely we see the balance tipping from largely defensive equipment to the deployment of overtly offensive equipment."

Assaults on police officers in Scotland 2014-2017
2014: 438
2015: 638
2016: 764
2017: 969
Source: Police Scotland

He added: "The growing support for more weaponry is, in part, prompted by terrorist threat assessments which none of us will ever get to see.

"Police Scotland may have spoken to politicians about their plans, however, this falls well short of what could remotely be described as consultation.

"This mission creep is ongoing towards a fully armed police service which will be remote from the public. The Scottish Greens do not support these changes."
Despite the restrictions introduced in 2014, the number of armed officers has risen by around 100 in three years.

"We have increased the number of officers available but out current deployment model is inefficient," Mr Gwynne said.

"This move is designed to maximise the safety of the Scottish public but we are aware that in the past there have been some concerns about the role of armed police officers and that we have not engaged as well as we could have when making decisions about how they are deployed.

"We have learned from that experience."
A recent survey by the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) showed nine out of ten officers want a Taser, which only firearms officers can carry at present.

Two out of three said they wanted a gun. The SPF union, which has voiced support for a wider roll-out of armed policing, said officers feel vulnerable.

Police in Scotland will be equipped with the Taser X2 Defender, which is capable of incapacitating a target at a range of 15ft with a 2000-volt shock.


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Wednesday, 13 November 2019

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