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Taser numbers reviewed in a bid to protect communities

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Public consultation launched today.

The number of taser trained police officers across Devon and Cornwall is to be reviewed with as part of a new project.

Devon and Cornwall Police are seeking public feedback on plans which could see the number of taser carrying officers across the Force increase over the next two to three years.

There are currently 530 taser trained (non-firearms) officers in the Force, but under new plans, this could increase to around 1,000 by 2018.

The move is being considered as a way of better protecting communities and dealing with incidents in more isolated and rural areas where there is threat of harm and risk to life of the public and back up to police officers may not be close by.

It is also hoped the move will reduce the number of assaults on police officers – currently around 30 incidents a month.

Superintendent Ian Drummond-Smith is leading the project and is hoping the public will provide useful feedback.

Supt Drummond-Smith said: “As part of our assessment of threat and risk to our communities and police officers we are reviewing the number of officers trained to carry taser and want to hear the public’s views on whether this should be extended.

“We are one of the largest and most rural forces in England and our resources are at times thinly spread.  Everyday our officers are called to deal with incidents involving weapons which requires us to assess what threat this might pose to the community or those officers attending.

“We want the public to know suitably trained and equipped officers can arrive promptly and deal with any incident as quickly, safely and efficiently as possible.

“This review will help us to determine the best way to ensure we have sufficient resilience to keep both communities and police officers safe.”

The review is not related to authorised firearms officers and has no link to terrorist threat. The deployment of taser officers is very different to the type of incident a firearms officer may attend, and there is no plans to change this strategy.

Supt Drummond Smith added: “Currently around 530 officers are authorised to carry taser – about one sixth of our force.

“Between January 2011 and October 2015, Devon and Cornwall officer drew tasers during incidents on 1,250 occasions – that equates to 0.1% of the 1.3 million incidents attended during this time.  But they only fired Taser on 306 occasions, at just 0.02% of all incidents.

“The chances of officers using a taser are very small and we don’t believe this would increase with a roll out of more authorised officers. What we do believe is that those wanting to cause harm through the use of weapons can be more effectively, quickly and safely dealt with if an officer has a taser. That means an increase in the numbers will better protect communities – particularly those it takes a longer time for us to physically get to.”

Reducing the number of officers assaulted while on duty has long been a target of both Devon and Cornwall Police and the Police Federation.

Nigel Rabbits, Chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Police federation, said: “The Federation fully support this review. Our stance is that all front-line, public facing operational officers should carry taser.”

Since January 1 2016, there has already been 87 assaults recorded against officers, 4 resulting in serious injury.  This includes officers being punched, spat on, headbutted and bitten. 2015 also saw the Force attend 5,068 incidents involving knives and dealing with the threat this brings.

Supt Drummond-Smith said: “Police officers appreciate they work in what at times can be considered a threatening environment, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be protected as much as possible from harm.

“Statistics show us that the public is not at more threat when an officer carries taser – in fact the exact opposite is true. We believe the chances of taser being used would remain very small even with increased numbers of officers carrying.

“We would hope the less-lethal deterrent taser offers will change the offender’s behaviour at a time when they may be thinking of assaulting an officer or threatening themselves and others.

“No decisions around this have yet been made and we want the public to tell us what they think. We will then take into account these responses as part of on-going review.”

The review is expected to make recommendations to the Chief Constable in the autumn. 

The survey can be found and completed at https://services.devon-cornwall.police.uk/surveys/tasers/index.htm


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Devon & Cornwall Police, Press office
Police headquarters, Middlemoor
Exeter
Devon
EX2 7HQ

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