Priti Patel to allow volunteer police officers to carry Tasers

Special constables will have to undergo same training as regular officers to be issued with weapons

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Editor
Monday 16 May 2022 22:38
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<p>Home Secretary Priti Patel is to speak at a policing conference on Tuesday</p>

Home Secretary Priti Patel is to speak at a policing conference on Tuesday

Priti Patel is to announce that volunteer police officers will be able to carry Tasers for the first time.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) previously decided against arming special constables, who serve from 16 hours a month, with the electroshock weapons.

The home secretary does not have the power to mandate their use, and Tuesday’s announcement comes amid allegations of a “power grab” over changes to a protocol that governs relations between the government and police.

Ms Patel is to speak at a conference held by the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers across England and Wales.

She is expected to announce that she has given approval for special constables to carry Tasers if they undergo the same training as regular officers and are authorised by chief constables.

The Home Office said the move aimed to ensure volunteers are “not at a disadvantage when facing an attacker wielding a knife or a marauding terrorist”, and that special constables face the same risk of potential assault as their colleagues.

A press release claimed the change had the backing of the NPCC but the body emphasised that chief constables would continue considering Taser deployments “in line with their strategic threat and risk assessments”.

A spokesperson added: “There is a national Taser training course for officers and approved professional practice which governs the use of Taser.

“The mere presence of a Taser is enough to bring 90 per cent of violent or potentially violent incidents to a swift and safe conclusion without the need to discharge the device.”

All police forces have already increased the provision of Tasers following waves of dedicated government funding, but the use of the weapons cannot be mandated at a national level.

In 2012, the NPCC’s predecessor organisation prohibited special constables from carrying Tasers.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the body said the decision was taken because they “do not receive the same level of training as their regular colleagues” and are “unlikely to have developed the equivalent depth and breadth of conflict resolution experience as their regular colleagues”.

The document added: “Such is the level of scrutiny and political interest in Taser, it is felt that allocating the weapon to a volunteer police officer could prove to be controversial.”

The Home Office said that special constables will have to reach “directed patrol status” and have completed a further 12 months’ service and 200 duty hours before undergoing Taser training.

All incidents involving a Taser, whether it is fired or not, are recorded by police.

The most recent Home Office data shows that Tasers are six times more likely to be used against Black suspects than white suspects in England and Wales excluding London, where the figure is five times.

On Monday, the home secretary lifted restrictions on suspicionless stop and search powers - where Black people are currently 14 times more likely to be targeted than white people.

Ethnic disparity in policing became a focus during 2020’s Black Lives Matters protests, while misogyny has come under scrutiny since the murder of Sarah Everard and a wave of prosecutions and scandals involving male officers.

The home secretary was to tell the Police Federation conference that “unacceptable behaviour must be rooted out and called out”.

“Lessons must be learned, and every necessary change must be made, without fear or favour,” she was to say.

“The whole country was shaken and horrified by Sarah Everard’s abduction, rape, and murder by a serving officer. This horrendous case – and other revelations – have undermined confidence in the police. The public are in urgent need of reassurance.”

The speech came as Boris Johnson was to hold a cabinet meeting focused on crime, which has risen overall during the pandemic as prosecutions hit a record low.

A week-long policing operation targeting knife crime is underway and on Thursday, the policing minister is holding a National Drug Summit.

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