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Monday, November 24, 2008

Making this the weapon of first resort isn’t the answer to growing violence

November 24, 2008
Andy Hayman: Commentary
The Times

Andy Hayman is former Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police

The Home Office announcement of an increase in the use of Tasers took me by surprise. I don’t believe that the case exists for putting such a significant number of weapons in the hands of nonspecialist police officers.

Making 10,000 Tasers available to 30,000 officers represents an increase in the armoury that far outweighs the increase in violence that they are intended to curb.

The case for this rise seems to be strongly predicated on the deterrent factor that a Taser will have on a violent suspect.

The small percentage of Tasers used (16 per cent) compared with the number carried last year seems to support that point.

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However, there is a risk that the increase in the number of Tasers could make them the weapon of first resort – if the Taser is more widely available, then it will be used more often.

Ministers are overreacting to what they see as a more violent society. Yes, it is true that knife crime and disorderly conduct have risen. But that has its roots in extended drinking times and gang turf wars. Increasing Tasers in this number is not the answer to those problems.

It wasn’t long ago that we were having a similar debate over the deployment of CS spray. Now we are talking about Tasers. The next step along this route would be routinely arming the police. We must proceed here with great caution.

Police officers and the public need protection. However, so does the confidence that our population has in the society we police, with its consent.

The £8 million bill for new Tasers would be better spent on tackling the question of why we have more violent streets – not upping the ante so the violence gets worse.

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