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MORE TASERS, FEWER GUNS; Armed police operations fall.

Byline: NAOMI CORRIGAN

ARMED response operations have dropped sharply since the extension of Taser use, new figures suggest.

Cleveland Police has seen the North-east's biggest fall of armed response operations, down from 667 in 2008-2009 to 430 in 2009-10. They used armed response vehicles 426 times, down from 661.

A force spokeswoman pointed to the growing use of stun guns. In early 2010, Cleveland and North Yorkshire forces rolled out Tasers to trained officers. They had previously only been available to authorised firearms officers.

Examples include an incident in March when police used Taser to stop a self-harmer stabbing himself in Eston. And in February, officers used the weapon to stop a knifeman after he threatened terrified women.

The spokeswoman said: "Firearms officers are only deployed to incidents where they may have to protect themselves or others from someone who is believed to have a firearm or other weapon, or someone is so dangerous that it is considered appropriate."

Despite the recent drop, the figure has risen dramatically since 2001/2002 when there were just 37 armed response incidents.

In County Durham, armed officers were sent to 140 operations in 2009-2010, down from 181, and armed response vehicles were used 140 times, down from 164. North Yorkshire showed a decline in firearm use from 289 to 272.

Across England and Wales, the number of operations in which officers were authorised to use firearms fell by 7%. A weapon was fired at only six incidents, up from five a year earlier.

CAPTION(S):

STOPPING SUSPECTS: A Taser is deployed, left
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jun 14, 2011
Words:259
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