Page last updated at 20:16 GMT, Monday, 5 January 2009

Tasers ordered for police forces

Taser stun gun
Tasers have been fired more than 1,000 times since 2004

The government has ordered 5,000 Taser stun guns at a cost of 4m for use by police forces across England and Wales.

It is the first instalment of 10,000 Tasers, which the Home Office said it would buy for frontline officers.

Currently, only specialist firearms officers carry the weapon, which can temporarily disable a suspect.

The Metropolitan Police Authority is yet to sanction extending their use in London because of fears they could "damage public confidence".

Human rights group Amnesty International has criticised the growth in use of the 50,000-volt weapons, which they say are "potentially lethal".

Pilot scheme

Taser International, the US-based company which makes the weapons, said the 4,000 Tasers and related accessories had been shipped late last year.

A Home Office spokesman said the weapons would help protect the public and allow the police to do their job safely.

"An order for the initial 5,000 costing 4 million has been placed by the Home Office to get better value for money than could be achieved by individual forces placing orders," he said.

"The numbers of Tasers provided to police forces will depend on the independent operational assessment by chief officers."

How tasers work graphic

In November, the Home Office announced plans to spend 8m on 10,000 new Tasers.

It also emerged up to 30,000 police officers would to be trained to use the guns.

The announcement to extend their use followed a year-long pilot scheme which saw Tasers issued to frontline officers in 10 police forces.

Use of the weapons will be limited to situations where officers or members of the public face the threat of serious violence.

In response to the announcement, the Metropolitan Police's supervisory authority said extending the use of Tasers may be perceived by the public to be "indiscriminate".

A statement from the Metropolitan Police Authority said it had "no intention of immediately sanctioning any increase in the availability of Tasers to officers in the Met".

Officers in England and Wales have fired the weapons more than 1,000 times since 2004.

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