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Should all front line officers be armed with Taser? Weapon fired one in ten times last year

File photo of a police officer demonstrating Taser. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

File photo of a police officer demonstrating Taser. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Fresh calls are being made to arm every front line officer in Norfolk with Taser in response to assaults on officers and serious violent crime.

Sgt Chris Harris with a X26 taser gun. Picture: ANTONY KELLYSgt Chris Harris with a X26 taser gun. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

It comes as use of force figures posted by the constabulary show the weapon was fired in fewer than one in ten occasions it had to be used last year.

On average, a Taser was ‘deholstered’ in Norfolk once every day in the last year, but only around half of front line officers are trained to carry one.

Andy Symonds, chair of the Norfolk Police Federation, said all response officers need to be armed due to “the level of violence within the criminal community”.

“Front line officers can find themselves in dynamic situations that can turn very quickly in to severe violence,” he said.

“To have a Taser when they turn up there is a definite change in environment.”

Mr Symonds added he has spoken to an officer who was assaulted only after their attacker checked if they had Taser.

“These offenders are already looking to see if these officers are carrying Taser and having a pop if they do not,” said Mr Symonds.

The Federation ran a survey in May, with 414 officers responding. More than half reported their life had been in “serious danger” at least once in the last two years, and 69pc said they were unsatisfied with the level of armed support in the county.

Andy Symonds, chairman of Norfolk Police Federation. Picture Andy SymondsAndy Symonds, chairman of Norfolk Police Federation. Picture Andy Symonds

“Because of the dynamics and logistics of our county we are spread quite thinly,” added Mr Symonds. “Officers want it there and then if a situation turns.

“We have incidents where it has turned very quickly to be quite violent, and the nearest back up can be quite a long way away. Taser can help control the situation when it has got to that level.”

This week a Cambridge study suggested officers carrying Taser were 50pc more likely to use force than those who don’t.

But according to the Federation survey, 84pc of respondents backed having access to Taser at all times when on duty.

Mr Symonds insisted a roll-out of Taser would not necessarily lead to an increase in use of force.

Statistics on use of CED devices in the year to March 2018 showed they were discharged 31 times of the 372 times they were used.

Three of those incidents involved Taser being used against mental health patients.

But in general, an officer will not need to go further than pointing the “red dot” to de-escalate the situation.

“The training isn’t diluted so there shouldn’t be concern about an increase in Taser trained officers will lead to an increase in the use of force,” Mr Symonds said.

“It is down to the individual officer to justify the force that has been used.

“Officers are getting assaulted and members of the public are being injured. This equipment will stop that.”

Chief Constable Simon Bailey has previously pledged to arm all front line officers with Taser by 2020.

A Norfolk Constabulary spokesman said: “Taser is only carried by officers who are highly trained and who receive refresher training at regular intervals.

“Before deployment is considered an assessment is made based on the situation and the threat/risk presented.

“Taser is a very effective tool in resolving violent and threatening situations. It can be used to disarm and apprehend offenders and prevent them from hurting themselves or others. “Often when someone is confronted with the possibility that a Taser may be used against them, they are compliant without it having to actually be discharged.

“Norfolk Police adhere to strict guidance issued by the National Police Chief Council in relation to training of staff and policy surrounding the use of Taser and firearms.”

A new study by the  University of Cambridge suggests police officers carrying Tasers are both more likely to be assaulted and to use force against suspects. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA WireA new study by the University of Cambridge suggests police officers carrying Tasers are both more likely to be assaulted and to use force against suspects. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Officers carrying Taser ‘more likely’ to use force - Cambridge study suggests

A new study into the use of force has suggested officers carrying Tasers are both more likely to be assaulted and to use force against suspects.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge found City of London officers armed with the electroshock weapons were almost 50pc more likely to use force in the line of duty.

It was also found they faced twice as many assaults as unarmed colleagues.

Between June 2016 and June 2017, researchers allocated a Taser-carrying officer to 400 frontline shifts.

Use of force was 48pc higher among those City of London officers carrying Tasers than their unarmed counterparts.

It was 19pc higher among those without a Taser but accompanying a carrying officer.

Six physical assaults against police were recorded during shifts with Taser-carrying officers, compared to just three on unarmed shifts.

In total, over the study period, Tasers were “deholstered” nine times by the examined officers, with suspects shocked on two occasions.