DOUBLE the number of police officers will be armed with Tasers in the West Midlands following ‘a major security review’.
The West Midlands force today announced the current 643 Taser trained officers will rise to around 1,440 in the next 18 months.
The devises are carried by emergency response officers and all firearms officers.
Under the changes, half of all response officers − PCs who respond to 999 emergencies – will also carry the device, as will some neighbourhood beat bobbies.
Chiefs say it follows recommendations by ‘security experts’ following ‘detailed analysis of local and national crime trends’.
Recent figures in the West Midlands showed crime rose in the year ending in March this year by 11 per cent – the first increase in years.
Chief constable Dave Thompson said: “We routinely review safety and security but the nature of the threat we all face has changed of late.
“We are seeing higher levels of violence and an increase in weapon use.
“Our officers need something more than their baton if they’re to protect people effectively.
“As part of our round the clock efforts to keep people safe, we will be significantly increasing the number of officers trained in the use of Taser.
“We’re still a long way off routinely arming PCs with Tasers but we have to stay one step ahead of those who would seek to cause harm.”
The force says officers deployed Taser on 854 occasions in 2016, and fired them 162 times.
Tasers will be available to officers covering a wider region of the West Midlands too, say chiefs, with ‘enhanced capability around shopping centres and entertainment venues including sporting arenas, concert venues and nightspots popular with clubbers and diners.’
But they emphasise the changes are ‘preventative and are not based on specific threats to the West Midlands.’
“I appreciate this may cause some people concern, but I’d like to reassure anyone worried about the changes that our use of Taser is tightly controlled,” added Chief Constable Thompson.
“Details of its use is routinely published on our website for all to see, and the publicly elected Police and Crime Commissioner holds me personally to account on behalf of the people of the West Midlands.”
The increase in Taser-carrying officers will coincide with the introduction of the latest double-shot weapons which are capable of firing twice before requiring a reload. Single-shot Tasers are currently used by the force.
“The new system offers greater protection for officers using the device to keep people safe from harm,” the force adds.
A public consultation event held at police headquarters on July 24 was attended by around 50 local people, councillors, medics and others, says the force.
It says public views were supportive, as were those of Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, and the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers.