Use of Tasers is to increase as more non-firearms officers in Sussex are trained in using the 55,000-volt devices, it has been announced.
Sussex Police said that from March 4 it will be extending the use of Tasers beyond authorised firearms officers only.
A total of 164 non-firearms officers within the force have received, or are receiving, four days of training to use the devices, accounting for around 8% of the force.
Currently there are around 75 Taser-trained firearms officers shared across Sussex and neighbouring Surrey. The boost in numbers aims to resolve conflicts faster, according to a police chief.
Human rights organisations have voiced concerns that the “dangerous and potentially lethal weapons” are likely to be misused when more officers are armed with them.
But Chief Superintendent Paul Morrison, of Sussex Police’s operations department, said the rise will cut the number of times armed response units are deployed.
He said that in around 70% of incidents where there is a possibility of a Taser being used, they end without the device being discharged. In a significant number of cases, simply drawing and aiming the Taser proves enough for the person posing a threat to comply with officers, he added.
Mr Morrison told reporters at force HQ in Lewes, East Sussex: “There are certain constraints within our firearms teams. There have been a number of occasions when Taser could have been a viable tactical option for the resolution of conflict where it wouldn’t have been used. The logic suggests that we will see an increase in the number of times Taser is used but we would still have a 70% compliance rate without it having been discharged because use is a lot broader.”
By October, 164 non-firearms officers will be trained to use a Taser, enabling a 24/7, 365-day-a-year capability.
Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: “We’ve seen that in other parts of the UK and, of course, in the United States, these dangerous and potentially lethal weapons are more likely to be misused when more officers are armed with them. Tasers should only be used where there’s a serious risk to life or of very serious injury and only by officers who are trained to the rigorous, exacting standards of firearms officers.”