Taser-armed police to go on patrol in Peterborough

Taser-equipped police officers Richard Slater and Siobhan Howarth at the Bridge Street Police Station. Photo: Alan Storer
Taser-equipped police officers Richard Slater and Siobhan Howarth at the Bridge Street Police Station. Photo: Alan Storer
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Wednesday, 8.17am: Twenty four police officers armed with Tasers will go on patrol in Peterborough from today (1 May).

The move is part of a county-wide initiative by police chiefs to train 120 extra officers across Cambridgeshire in the use of Tasers.

Until now only 55 officers, who already operate as firearms officers, have undergone instruction in the use of Tasers.

Chief Inspector Nick Church, lead officer on Taser, said: “The Taser has proven to be an effective tool in dealing with potentially violent situations safely and rapidly.

“Extending the use of Taser across the force will enhance the safety of both the public and officers.

“I know there has been concern about its extended use but our firearms officers have been authorised to use Taser since 2006.

“The threat of using Taser, where a red dot appears on the person’s torso, is often enough to quieten an offender so they can be dealt with without injury to them, officers or members of the public.

“Our officers have to deal with violent, often unstable, offenders and this simple device is one of a number of tactical options officers can use when there is a threat to a member of public or an officer.”

Since January 1, 2012, Taser has been deployed 432 times in Cambridgeshire, people have been red-dotted on 37 occasions and there have been three discharges.

On none of these three occasions have there been any injuries or medical problems caused to the person who has been Tasered.

Officers who are issued with Tasers are trained to a national standard using nationally-prepared guidance and have been working with colleagues in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire who have already extended its use.

Training took place over a four month period and officers were required to complete a three-and-a-half day course and pass the national eyesight test.

Initially, in 2009, The Home Office supplied 140 Taser units.

This financial year, the force estimates the roll out of Taser will cost about £62,000. This includes buying equipment such as the units, cartridges, training equipment, storage and suitable safety equipment for officers to carry them.

Ch Insp Church added: “Taser will only be used when absolutely necessary and will be considered alongside other options including negotiation, batons, incapacitant sprays and dogs.

“Officers have already gone through selection criteria to carry a Taser and will need to pass a rigorous training course set nationally.”

The deployment of Taser trained officers will be 24 in Peterborough plus 17 in Cambridge city, 11 for south Cambridgeshire, 12 for east Cambridgeshire and 20 for Fenland, 16 in Huntingdonshire. There are 12 with the Tactical Team and eight with the Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) team.

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Shock causes target to ‘freeze’

Tasers work by firing two ‘barbs’ attached to the unit at a person.

When the barbs make contact with a person, they complete a circuit, delivering an electric shock.

Ch Insp Church said: “The shock causes neuromuscular debilitation, which means the person hit temporarily loses control of their muscles. This either causes them to freeze, or fall over, giving the officers the opportunity to close in to the target.”