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More MET police officers will carry tasers - but 20% 'don't want stun guns'

Ben Birchall/PA Wire

By Margaret Davis, PA Crime Correspondent

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has said more officers in Britain's largest police force will carry a Taser, but a fifth do not want to use the stun guns.

A national debate over whether every officer should carry the device was ignited after a series of serious attacks on police in August, including the death of Pc Andrew Harper, who was dragged under a van when he was called to a burglary.

Speaking on LBC, Dame Cressida Dick said the force has around 6,500 Tasers, up from 4,400 when she became head of the force in 2017, and a further increase will be announced next month.

While Met bosses are making more of the devices available, there are no plans to give all officers a Taser, as other forces including Durham and Northamptonshire have done.

Dame Cressida said: "About 20% of my people have said in a survey they don't really want to carry Taser, thank you very much.

"It is a very powerful bit of kit, it is also potentially a very dangerous bit of kit. You've got to be a really good decision-maker, you've got to be really fit."

Allan Hogarth, from human rights charity Amnesty International, said: "It's not surprising that a significant number of Met police officers don't want a Taser when you realise that officers receive comparatively little training before being given the responsibility of carrying these extremely dangerous weapons.

"As the Commissioner says, you've got to be a really good decision-maker to use a Taser.

"Police officers do a difficult job, and we're not against them receiving Tasers as long as they're only being deployed by highly trained specialist officers in situations where they're trying to prevent loss of life or serious injury.

"Tasers are linked to hundreds of deaths in the USA where they've been available for longer than in Britain - which should serve as a serious warning that we need better training, and better oversight and accountability when it comes to arming UK police with Tasers."

Metropolitan Police officers are being given new, longer batons and spit guards as part of moves to improve safety.

The Commissioner has also asked the Government for 6,000 of the additional 20,000 police officers that are due to be recruited over the next three-and-a-half years.

The Met is due to have around 31,000 officers by December this year, and if the boost is granted it would give the force its highest ever number of officers.

Dame Cressida added: "I've suggested a proportionate amount for London given the challenges we face with violence, the scale of the city, the changing demographics, the demands which have gone up, the protests that we are dealing with - I've said about 6,000.

"We will try to get those in, in two to three years."

The Met boss said the rise would be justified by the increasing population of London, and challenges from threats such as terrorism and digital crimes.

"Don't think for one second if we have 36,000 or 37,000 officers we won't still be doing very productive work, and be very busy. No-one will be twiddling their thumbs," she told host Nick Ferrari.

During the broadcast, the Commissioner also said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson giving a political speech in front of West Yorkshire police cadets was "problematic".

Chancellor Sajid Javid visited the Metropolitan Police college in Hendon, north London, on the same day.

Dame Cressida said: "To make a highly political speech in front of a group of police officers does seem to me to be rather problematic on all sides and how it happened I don't know, but I'm sure everybody wishes it hadn't. I'm glad to say nothing like that happened at Hendon."