Update: Police in Welwyn Hatfield to get stun guns
STUN guns capable of delivering a 50,000 volt electric shock are to be rolled out to frontline police officers in Welwyn Hatfield. At present, Tasers, which are intended to be a less lethal alternative to conventional guns, can only be used by specialist
STUN guns capable of delivering a 50,000 volt electric shock are to be rolled out to frontline police officers in Welwyn Hatfield.
At present, Tasers, which are intended to be a less lethal alternative to conventional guns, can only be used by specialist firearms officers.
But following a 12-month trial, which involved 10 police forces across the UK, Hertfordshire Constabulary is now keen to allow more officers to carry the weapons.
A police spokesman said: "Tasers have been available to specialist firearms officers since June 2005, although we have plans to extend their use to specially trained non-firearms officers in the Welwyn Hatfield area from March 2009.
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"We are currently seeking funding from the Home Office to support our roll-out programme."
Chief superintendent Steve Ottaway said: "Tasers are an extremely useful tool for officers to use in order to safely deal with situations where people are behaving violently towards others or themselves.
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"All officers who are issued with Tasers will be subject to rigorous training before being allowed to use them."
However, not everybody is happy with the plans.
Human rights group Amnesty International has expressed concerns about the safety of the devices, which it says have been responsible for a number of deaths in the US.
A spokesman for the Welwyn Hatfield & East Herts Amnesty group said: "We ask that there should be an informed public debate before any decision is taken about deploying Tasers, or broadening their use.
"This is not the sort of weapon Amnesty International would want to see introduced more widely while such fears remain about its safety."
And Lib Dem parliamentary hopeful Paul Zukowskyj said: "The deployment of potentially lethal weapons such as Tasers, described widely as 'less lethal' rather than non-lethal, to officers who have had less than full firearms training, worries me.
"I understand that the police feel they need these weapons to police effectively, especially when dealing with violent people. However, I feel their training needs to be carefully scrutinised to ensure the officers who have access to these weapons fully understand the implications and consequences of their use.