Shropshire Star comment: Training is key to use of Tasers
The use of Tasers by police officers is understandably a highly contentious issue.
Considered by some to be a vital part of the modern day police officers kit, there is no denying the fact that as Taser use has escalated, so have reports of deaths.
In the UK there have been at least 18 fatalities linked to the use of Tasers since they were introduced in 2003, including former footballer Dalian Atkinson, who died in 2016 after being shot with a stun gun in Telford.
It is worth noting that when Tasers were first introduced, only specialist firearm-trained officers were authorised to use them.
They were considered to be a method of resolving a crisis without having to resort to using a gun, and it would be five years before Tasers were rolled out to forces across the country.
But it is clear that since the technology was introduced, its use has grown beyond the original intention.
From the perspective of police officers, just imagine being thrust into a violent situation where a perpetrator may have a gun or a knife to hand.
Unarmed officers face a wider range of dangers than ever before, so providing them with a Taser helps to mitigate those risks to a large degree.
However, there is public concern that Tasers are overused, and may have become a first port of call for some officers rather than a last resort.
Undoubtedly, Northamptonshire Police’s decision to issue Tasers to all of its frontline officers will not have been taken lightly.
The rising levels of violence against emergency services personnel – seen tragically last week with the death of PC Andrew Harper – certainly required a response.
It remains to be seen whether other forces will follow suit, but the key to the whole issue may lie in training.
If all officers are to be equipped with Tasers – and it is clear that some of them are far from comfortable with that prospect – then they must be educated, not just in the use of the weapon, but also in how to recognise what behaviour constitutes such a response.
For now the jury is out as to whether Tasers should be more than a tactical option for specialist officers.