A CHIEF constable of a police force which gives Tasers to less than half of its its uniformed officers has indicated that bobbies on the beat will not be routinely armed with the weapons. 

North Yorkshire Police chief constable Lisa Winward told members of the county’s police, fire and crime panel that a soon to be published National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) study had found providing Tasers to all frontline officers could be excessive in areas where the threats facing officers is relatively low.

At present about 40 per cent of uniformed frontline police officers in North Yorkshire carry Tasers and the electric weapons which fire darts to incapacitate people, was used by the force 226 times to manage an incident last year.

Ms Winward’s comments follow the North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner surveying residents over whether handing Tasers to more officers would make them feel safer, which concluded two-thirds of people believed it would. Only six per cent of respondents felt it would make them feel less safe. 

While there was support for neighbourhood police officers to carry them, a quarter of the public felt neighbourhood officers shouldn’t carry them.

At the time of the survey, commissioner Julia Mulligan said the decision over arming officers with Tasers rested with chief constable, but she wanted to ensure “our police officers have every resource possible to keep them safe, so they can keep us all safe”.

Ms Winward said while the decision of neighbouring force Durham Police last August to offer the use of a Taser to every frontline officer had sparked a debate, the findings of the NPCC found “that isn’t actually a necessary requirement and it would take far more years and a lot of cost”, particularly in comparison with the level of threat facing officers in the county.

In September, the government announced plans to spend £10m on arming more officers with electric stun guns, despite police chiefs and human rights groups voicing strong concerns about the impact the weapons have on trust in the police.

She said a threat assessment in North Yorkshire would look at the geographical size of the force and the requirement to have a taser available 24/7 at every location within a reasonable travelling distance.

Ms Winward said: “Based on that threat and risk assessment we will look at the number officers, their location, their postings, the availability of taser and the duty system to ensure that in every location across our county, due to the geographical spread, there is a Taser available should an incident occur where a taser would be the less lethal and most appropriate option to respond to that incident.”

The chief constable said under the revised system an officer with a Taser would be expected to respond to emergencies in urban areas of the county within 15 minutes and in 20 minutes in rural areas.

The chief constable added officers would book a taser out when they went out on patrol and the force’s control room would dispatch them to emergencies in a similar way to the force’s firearms officers, who are strategically positioned across the county to give the best response times when incidents occur.

After members raised concerns over the use of weapons, Ms Winward said officers selected for taser training would have their decision-making abilities thoroughly scrutinised.