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Last Updated: Friday, 13 May, 2005, 02:03 GMT 03:03 UK
Frontline police 'want stun guns'
British firearms officers in a demonstration of the Taser gun
Taser guns fire needle-tipped darts up to 21ft to disable suspects
Eight out of 10 police think all officers on frontline duties should be issued with stun guns, a poll suggests.

The Police Federation will debate the Police Review magazine survey of 100 officers at its conference next week.

Fifteen forces have the high-voltage Taser guns but they can only be used by trained firearms officers - a policy the Home Office says it will keep.

Concerns have been raised about possible health risks, particularly to people with heart conditions.

The Taser guns, manufactured in the US, fire needle-tipped darts up to 21ft (6.4m) to deliver a 50,000 volt.

Properly trained

The electric shock temporarily disables targets, allowing them to be disarmed. Supporters say they cause fewer deaths than conventional firearms.

Police Federation chairwoman Jan Berry said: "We will consider whether Tasers should be introduced to every operational police officer.

"I think we will find some officers saying they do not want to carry a Taser if they are not going to be properly trained to use it."

More than half the public also want to see Tasers being deployed, according to the Police Review, which also questioned 1,000 members of the public.

'Aggressive response'

But a spokeswoman for the Home Office said the principle that UK police officers are not routinely armed was one it "should not readily give up".

She said: "Safe as it is, there is no doubt that Taser is an aggressive response and the government believes that it should only be used in strictly controlled conditions.

"Our current position is that we believe the use of Taser should be limited to use by authorised firearms officers in situations where a firearms authority has been given."

Derek Talbot, spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said senior officers did not support wider use of the weapon.

He stressed the need to balance the desire of officers to feel safer with the concerns of ministers and civil liberties groups.

Amnesty International called last year for Tasers to be tightly controlled, saying they had been linked to the deaths of more than 70 people in the US.

It says many experts believe Taser shocks "may exacerbate the risk of heart failure" in people under the influence of drugs or with some health problems.

See a stun gun in action

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