TODAY marks a watershed for Sussex Police, as they join other forces around the UK in allowing some specially-trained non-firearms officers to be able to use Tasers.
In the past, the use of Taser - or electric stun guns - has been restricted to authorised firearms officers only.
But from today (Monday, March 4), up to 160 officers from local response and support teams with special training will be allowed to use them ‘in situations where there is a real threat of violence’.
A statement from Sussex Police read: “This means around eight per cent of police officers in the Force will be trained in the use of Taser, compared to the national average of around 11.5 per cent.
“Once trained, the officers will be available to deploy with Taser to support colleagues dealing with violent or threatening situations and will reduce the number of times armed response units are deployed.”
Chief Superintendent, Paul Morrison of Sussex Police’s operations department, said: “Experience shows simply the presence of Taser acts as a deterrent to the escalation of violence. Nearly 70 per cent of incidents where there is a possibility of using Taser, end without it being discharged.
“Studies have also showed the presence of Taser reduces the levels of force required by officers in violent situations avoiding, for example, the use of a baton or captor. In a significant number of cases simply the drawing and aiming of Taser is enough incentive for the person posing the threat to comply with officers.
“The majority of people will not see any change in day-to-day policing. Patrols by officers and PCSOs will continue as normal, however in the event of a violent situation they may now request Taser support by colleagues locally, rather than from firearms officers who are based at central locations.
“Authority to use Taser will still have to be granted by senior officers, as has always been the case, and it is not the first option. Officers have a range of skills and tactics they can choose from and the most appropriate option for the circumstances will be used.
“The decision to roll out Tasers to non-firearms officers is not an indication that the threat of violence has increased in Sussex but a way of enabling us to deploy Taser trained officers more quickly to situations where they are needed to protect the public.
“An equivalent of a ‘black box’ is stored within the Taser so that each deployment can be monitored and processes are in place to make sure this is done lawfully and in accordance with training.
“All the officers who will be authorised to carry Taser undertake an intense week-long training course. The course includes theory alongside practical exercises and examines their decision making processes in pressured situations.
“To be qualified to carry Taser an officer must pass this course, which includes a number of assessments”.