Staffordshire Police to invest in new advanced double shot Taser devices
Main article content
Staffordshire Police is to invest in new advanced Taser devices which will give greater protection to officers when carrying out their duties.
The force, which has around 350 specially-trained Taser officers – one of the highest proportions of Taser-trained officers in the UK, is to introduce the upgraded X2 Tasers, which are double shot weapons, capable of firing twice before requiring a reload. This is in addition to the armed police officers within force, who also carry Taser.
The Home Office recently announced funding had been made available for forces who had bid for extra Taser officers. Staffordshire Police was not eligible to bid for this funding as it was only available for forces who wanted to increase Taser numbers and not to upgrade existing equipment. An assessment of threat and risk across the county, which is kept under review, had identified that investment in upgrading the existing equipment from the single-shot Tasers currently used by the force would provide greater benefits and protection – both for officers and for keeping the public safe – than increasing overall numbers, although this is also kept under constant review.
The investment, which is being funded by the Staffordshire Commissioner’s Office, will also ensure greater transparency and protection for officers, as the new devices will also automatically activate the existing body worn video cameras officers carry to capture best evidence. The latest devices along with upskilled training will be rolled out to staff over the next 12 months and replace the previous weapons which have been used since 2003.
The force has no plans to routinely arm all its officers with Taser devices at this stage. Officers who carry Taser do so on a voluntary basis and there are currently sufficient numbers of trained officers across the force to ensure it is readily available and accessible when the need arises.
The use of Taser is tightly controlled following a rigorous training programme and it is only ever used as a response to a threat or a perceived threat. In the majority of incidents the use of Taser does not include firing - the threat is often mitigated by the sheer presence of the device. In 2019, Taser was deployed 209 times across the county, but was only fired 15 times. Each time a device is deployed, an internal review into the circumstances is carried out and there is also regular external scrutiny into the force’s use of Taser via local Safer Neighbourhood Panels.
The announcement coincides with the forthcoming publication of the national Officer and Staff Safety Review. The review, carried out by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), will examine all aspects of officer safety and follows a number of serious attacks on police officers and a recorded national increase in officer assaults.
Staffordshire Police has already seen an 11.4% fall in the number of assaults on officers and staff over the past year, which is partly due to the intense safety and personal training every officer is required to go through while serving. The personal safety training focuses on teaching officers de-escalation techniques when they are called to incidents where people are angry or using drugs or alcohol or suffering a mental health episode. Officers and staff are taught to focus on diffusing any potentially situations which may involve conflict.
A robust wellbeing ‘7 Point Plan’ is also in place in force to help support officers and staff who have suffered injury while on duty. The plan launched in 2017, is designed to provide a professional and consistent response to these incidents ensuring that welfare, recording, investigation, supervision and support to colleagues are consistent across the force.
Officers who are armed with Taser also have to undergo additional specialist training, with annual refresher courses including eye sight tests and first aid courses to provide after-care to those who are Tasered.
Deputy Chief Constable Emma Barnett said: “Staffordshire has always been one of the forces with the highest percentage of Taser-trained officers. The use of force is always a last resort and the decision to use a Taser is never taken lightly and is deployed on a threat and risk basis. However, Taser is an important tactical option for officers when needed and the force’s decision to invest in upgrading the existing Taser equipment from the current single shot to the new advanced X2 double shot model will offer improved protection for officers and the public they are working to keep safe.
“Officer safety is a priority and assaults on police officers are never acceptable. We need to be able to protect those officers while they carry out their duty and provide welfare and support to our staff who are injured.”
Chair of Staffordshire Police Federation, Sergeant Phil Jones, said: “National figures show that 90% of emergency workers who are assaulted are police officers and realistically we would like all our officers to have access to Taser. We would also like to push for tougher sentencing for those convicted of assaulting officers who are injured carrying out their duties. However, the Federation is reassured locally that we have adequate numbers of officers armed with Taser for both the force and community needs.
“Taser is an important tool for the safety of officers and frontline staff.”
Matthew Ellis, Staffordshire Police, Fire and Rescue and Crime Commissioner, said: “We owe it to our police officers to protect them and give them the best equipment possible, so I was happy to make funding available for these advanced devices.
“The extra investment in policing I asked people to make through local tax is already making a significant difference here in Staffordshire – whether that’s through new technology like the drones and off-road bikes for the Roads Policing Unit, or the enhanced missing persons investigation team and the dedicated Disruptions Team to tackle serious harm.”