Tasers a vital way to protect police from extreme violence; Judith Phillips Follow her every Monday.
ASSAULT on a police officer is a serious offence, and when the officer sustains significant injuries, it becomes even more so. Yet it seems that assaults on those who choose a career which means they are putting themselves in the way of assault in order to protect the wider population from harm, are becoming increasingly prevalent.
In North Wales over the Bank Holiday weekend officers sustained a broken nose, and a broken jaw, while a third had his eye gouged as they tried to control violent criminals. I was also dismayed to see that another had been badly bitten on his hand causing a nasty wound as a result of what can only be described as animalistic behaviour.
I suspect that excessive intake of drink or drugs were behind these violent acts, and in such instances offenders behave in a way which is beyond reason, so trying to talk to them in a way which might calm them down is futile. This means that beat officers have to try to effect an arrest knowing they are likely to encounter extreme violence, and majority are only armed with a baton to aid their self defence.
So I think the suggestion from the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, Arfon Jones, that all frontline officers should be armed with Tasers for their self protection is an eminently sensible one.
A Taser shouldn't be used indiscriminately, because they have the power to stun or cause injury if used by untrained hands, but surely every officer should be trained in their use, and have one as part of their everyday equipment? And it seems that frontline officers agree with Mr Jones that the majority of them should carry them at all times.
A survey carried out earlier this year by the Police Federation of England and Wales showed 79 per cent of responders wanted access to a Taser at all times, and who can blame them? With an increasing number of criminals carrying knives, and other weapons, surely it isn't reasonable for a police officer to be expected to arrest them while relying for his or her protection on a wooden baton? When Tasers were first introduced to this country I was invited to see the use of one being demonstrated.
It was apparent that it was an effective way of helping to bring a violent criminal under control for long enough for them to be restrained and handcuffed.
I'm one of those who wouldn't like to see every member of our police force carrying a firearm, but in instances where normal methods of restraint are clearly not going to work, I see nothing wrong at all in a properly trained officer using a Taser to effect an arrest. And I was interested to see a comment from a Police Federation representative that in 80 per cent of cases where a Taser is drawn it is not fired as the deterrent effect is enough.
So let's hope that funding can be found to give our police this vital extra method of defence which could make all the difference when they're confronted by violent situations which can lead to them being seriously injured or worse.
In my book this is an acceptable way of strengthening the thin blue line that stands between us and anarchy on our streets.