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Fears raised after Newham police equipped with Tasers

PUBLISHED: 17:00 23 September 2012

Archant

Police in Newham are to be trained to use Taser guns during ‘violent situations’.

The roll-out is part of a Met Police move to make them more readily available to response officers.

Two of the borough’s vehicles will also be equipped with Tasers.

The bright yellow handheld weapons are currently the preserve of specially trained firearms teams.

Community groups have raised fears about the long-term impact stemming from an increase in use of the weapons.

Newham Chief Supt Rob Jones said: “It is an important tactical option which is used by specially trained officers.

“It diffuses potentially violent situations and crucially minimises harm to the public, police officers and to the offender.”

The gun produces an electrical current which causes the skeletal muscles to freeze until the weapon is turned off.

Mr Jones added the officers will be specially selected as suitable before enrolling on a three-day training course.

He added: “I support the use of this valuable piece of equipment and believe it will better equip my officers in keeping Newham’s communities safe.”

Estelle Du Boulay, director of the Newham Monitoring Project, said: “It suggests there may be a rise in use of force by the police, which should only ever be used as a last resort and where robust accountability systems exist.

“There are longstanding concerns regarding disproportional and unjustified usage of Taser against the black communities, particularly in circumstances where people have mental health conditions.

“We fear this will now get worse.”

The Met has already phased in the new policy to five London boroughs.

Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe attempted to dampen fears about the use of the weapons in an interview with LBC radio.

Speaking earlier this year, he said: “Some people think it’s an aggressive thing, I don’t. I think this helps us to protect the public.

“Both the government and police have said we are going to have Tasers available.

“All we are trying to do now is make it available if officers need it, not two hours later.”


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