More Thames Valley police officers 'could carry Tasers'

Violence against Thames Valley Police officers has risen by more than a third over the past five years

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Electric stun guns could be used by more police in the Thames Valley following an increase in violence against officers.

Chief Constable Sara Thornton expressed concern for her officers' safety and revealed some have approached her directly about the issue.

Currently armed response officers are the force's only staff to carry Tasers.

Violence against Thames Valley Police officers has risen by more than a third over the past five years.

A working group is currently considering whether more officers should be equipped with Taser guns. It is expected to report its findings to the chief constable in December.

'Terrible event'

Chief Constable Thornton admitted she had "a responsibility to protect her officers as much as possible" when sending them out to face uncertain situations.

She said: "Over the last year, more and more officers have contacted me to say they felt they would have dealt with an incident more effectively if they had had access to a Taser.

"We've been constantly reviewing our current procedures and have also looked at how neighbouring forces approach it.

"I have asked for more work to be done to look at how we might increase the deployment of Tasers to our officers.

"I'm concerned that assaults on officers, having previously been decreasing year-on-year, are beginning to creep up once again."

Last year, Thames Valley Police officers were deployed to use Tasers 789 times but they were only actually fired 13 times.

'Extremely effective'

Referring to the deaths of police officers Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone in Manchester earlier this month, the chief constable added: "Clearly this was a terrible event and it is fair to say it has been a shock to the whole police service.

"It has re-ignited the debate around whether police should be routinely armed in this country.

"I believe one of the current strengths is that the majority of our policing is done by unarmed officers and most police officers would agree with this."

Graham Smith, from Thames Valley Police Federation, said he welcomes any move that could "give added protection to officers".

He said: "If officers have to go to a scene where violence is being used then they currently have to wait for an armed officer to arrive.

"In my experience, Tasers can be extremely effective in calming a situation down.

"Giving more officers the opportunity to carry them is a great idea for both their safety and that of the public."

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