What is the Police Federation's position on Taser?
We strongly support the wider roll-out of Taser to all frontline officers should they wish to be equipped with it. Taser is an extremely effective means of dealing with the many dangerous situations that officers often face on the streets and is a less lethal option than more conventional firearms. In 80% of cases where Taser is drawn, it is not fired as the deterrent is enough, which helps protect communities as well as protecting officers from assaults.
In 2015, the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) voted unanimously for the larger roll out of Taser and that stance remains unchanged.
In a survey in 2016, just 14% of members who responded said they have access to Taser, but 43% more said they would like access to it. The National Police Chiefs’ Council do not support such a move, stating that a roll out of this kind could challenge the UK policing model and the principle of policing by consent.
What has the PFEW done to push this forward?
The Home Office has said it is a decision for chief constables to make. We continue to raise the issue with the Home Office as well as all chief constables to encourage a roll out. In November 2016, we commissioned Ipsos MORI to do a survey of public opinion on Taser. It showed that 71% of respondents consider it acceptable for police officers to carry Taser when on patrol. Other key findings included:
Four out of five surveyed said it would make no difference to their decision, or they would be more likely, to approach an officer for assistance if they were carrying a Taser
89% said forces should be allowed to train and equip officers if the use of Taser is automatically recorded by Body Worn Video
97% of respondents said they were aware of what a Taser is
79% said that forces should be allowed to train and equip officers if Tasers were to be issued to police officers working alone
Only 17% disagree that all police officers should be given the option of being equipped with Taser
Read the headline statistics of the survey findings
The full survey findings can be viewed on the Ipsos MORI website
In January 2017, a survey of members showed that 82% who responded said Taser should be issued to more frontline officers, up 8% since 2014. In particular, members wanted more availability of Taser for those in roles within neighbourhood policing (86%), roads policing (86%) and response (82%).
Read the headline report of the survey findings
How would a further rollout be funded?
Former Home Secretary Theresa May highlighted that one of the issues with a further Taser rollout is how it will be funded due to the tight budgets the majority of forces have to balance. The PFEW has and will continue to lobby for funding to be found from the Home Office to support the move if that is what a chief constable decides.
What about Authorised Firearms Officers?
Taser is by far the preferred option to firearms, with only a fifth of officers surveyed by the Federation in 2016 having or wanting personal firearms for use, and a third wanting or having access to rapid response firearms teams.
It is worth noting that Britain is one of a few places, along with New Zealand, where police officers do not routinely carry firearms, preferring to police by consent and retain a typical bobby or ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ effect on the community.
However, it is vital that officers who do volunteer for firearms roles are safe in the knowledge that all has been done to protect their safety, with the provision of appropriate, reliable equipment and sufficient back-up officers.
As figures for gun and knife crime continue to rise, we will continue to push for more police officers to be trained specifically as Authorised Firearms Officers.
It is also important that after any incident involving a police firearm being used there is proper scrutiny and lessons are learned, but this must be balanced against the support that the officers involved should receive. This includes the way officers are treated by any post-incident management procedure.