Page last updated at 16:34 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Police to get 6,000 extra Tasers

A Taser stun gun
The guns deliver a 50,000-volt shock

An extra 6,000 Taser stun guns are to be used by police in England and Wales at a cost of 8m, the Home Office says.

The funding follows a 12-month trial in 10 forces to extend their use to trained frontline officers.

There are already 6,700 firearms officers able to use the weapons, which can temporarily disable a suspect.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith says they are safer for the police and public but human rights body Amnesty International has called them "potentially lethal".

The guns fire needle-tipped darts up to 21ft (6m) to deliver a disabling, 50,000-volt shock.

'Extremely disappointing'

Ms Smith said: "I am proud that we have one of the few police services around the world that does not regularly carry firearms and I want to keep it that way.

"Everyday the police put themselves in danger to protect us, the public... I want to give the police the tools they tell me they need to confront dangerous people."

The Home Office also announced an additional 2.3m to pay for the cartridges.

West Midlands Police: 600
British Transport Police: 400
Merseyside Police: 365
West Yorkshire Police: 327
Devon & Cornwall Constabulary: 325
Source: Home Office

When extra funding was made available, police forces submitted bids to the Home Office for the number of Tasers they required, and each was given its total.

Paul McKeever, of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "The investment rightly reflects the professionalism of police officers nationwide and recognises the vital role Taser plays in the fight against crime."

But he said it was "extremely disappointing" the Metropolitan Police had failed to "take advantage" of the funding.

The force has chosen not to sanction extending their use in London because of fears they could "damage public confidence".

Mr McKeever said Tasers provide a less lethal alternative to firearms and gives officers confidence and reassurance when confronted with volatile situations.

A Metropolitan Police Authority spokesman said while the guns add useful flexibility to police armoury, there is a responsibility to reinforce public confidence in the force.

"This could be affected by an uncalled for increase in the deployment of Tasers, which are still widely perceived as oppressive," he said.

He added that a decision on extending the use of Tasers would not be made until the results of a full report into the pilot scheme in May.

Derek Talbot, from the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said he welcomed the roll out following the "successful" 12 month trial.

In 85% of the 661 incidents involving Tasers during the trial, the situation was resolved without the weapon being fired, he said.

The Home Office says this shows they act as a powerful deterrent in preventing any escalation in violence.

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