Extra 520 officers to use Tasers 'step in right direction', says SPF
Police Scotland is to nearly double its Taser-handling capacity just months after nine out ten officers called for access to the device.
A survey revealed nearly two-thirds of Scottish officers said they wanted the “option” to use handguns and more than three quarters demanded firearms training – due to a lack of Tasers to protect themselves from violence.
Now 520 extra police officers will start carrying Tasers from next month – on top of the the current band of 365 police personnel.
The Scottish Police Federation (SPF), which has been lobbying hard for better protection for both officers and public amid increasing concern about knives, said it did not expect a huge rise in discharges of the weapons.
Only three people were subject to Taser discharges last year.
SPF General Secretary Calum Steele said the additional officers using Tasers would be “a step in the right direction” as 1,000 officers reported being assaulted last year.
He told Police Professional: “We know from experience elsewhere that Tasers can reduce assaults on police officers and the public and injuries to offenders. The alternative to being tasered is the barbaric act of being bludgeoned into submission.”
The vast majority of SPF members who took part in a survey last November said they supported the roll-out that “bridges the gap between having nothing to armed response vehicles”.
Mr Steele said: “Police officers are attending incidents where they face increased violence and individuals armed with weapons on a daily basis.
“They are subjected to assaults and regularly suffer injuries, some of which can be life-changing and career-ending.
“It is vital that officers have the necessary equipment and training so they can keep the public, and themselves, safe when responding to these incidents.
“A survey of our members showed overwhelming support for the provision of additional protective equipment and the training programme that will start shortly is a welcome step in the right direction.”
The personal protective equipment survey revealed around 73 per cent of officers aged 25 to 34 backed wider deployment of handguns compared with a third of over 55s.
Overall, some 64 per cent of officers backed an option to use handguns if necessary and 77 per cent wanted firearms training. These figures were around 20 per cent higher than in England and Wales.
The research did not ask officers specifically about routine arming but instead sought their views on having access to firearms in an emergency situation.
The deployment – which means around five per cent of all officers will have either a gun or a Taser – brings Scotland more into line with England.
Former Chief Constable Phil Gormley began developing a new Taser policy before quitting the force in March. The Scottish Police Authority backed the increased deployment before Christmas.