Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Wednesday, 10 June 2009 16:31 UK

Stun guns issued to beat officers

A Taser stun gun
North Yorkshire Police said its officers would receive extensive training

Police officers patrolling the streets of Whitby are to be issued with electric stun guns.

The Taser guns, which can hit suspects with a 50,000-volt charge, are currently only used by North Yorkshire Police's specialist firearms officers.

The force said it expected up to 10 officers to be trained in operating the weapons by the end of the year.

Amnesty International said it was concerned about the increasingly widespread use of the weapon in the UK.

The pistol-like guns use compressed air to fire two darts that trail a cable back to the handset.

Insp Nick Wattan of North Yorkshire Police said the officers would receive extensive training before the guns were deployed.

'Seismic shift'

"The Home Office recommendation is that officers attend an 18-hour training course," he said.

"We, as a force, are actually going beyond that. The officers that will be trained for this are looking at 28 hours training."

Amnesty International's Mike Blakemore said issuing patrol officers with the Tasers represented a "seismic shift" in Britain's policing.

"We have always prided ourselves in this country on policing by consent rather than compliance by pain," he said.

"A Taser should only be used when there is a serious threat to life or a threat of serious injury, either to the officer themselves or to somebody else."

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