27 September 2019
On Sunday I will be joining officers from across the UK at the annual National Police Memorial Day being held this year in Glasgow.
It is, of course, a sombre occasion and offers a fitting tribute to our fallen colleagues; officers who have left their families and homes to ‘clock on’ and serve their communities and never made it back to their loved ones at the end of their shift.
The memorial day service is a poignant reminder of the unique role police officers play in society, running towards danger as others run away and, all too often, paying the ultimate price.
Just over six weeks ago, PC Andrew Harper of Thames Valley Police became the latest officer to tragically die in the line of duty and three teenagers have been charged with his murder.
His death followed two other serious incidents involving police officers both of which could have also ended tragically – a Met officer was injured in a machete attack while an officer from West Midlands Police suffered serious injuries when he was run over. There have been many other incidents in recent months in which officers have been injured too and on Wednesday (25 September) another West Midlands Police officer suffered head and leg injuries when he was the victim of a hit and run.
All these cases are further evidence – as if any were needed – of the dangers officers are facing and should go to demonstrate why all officers who want to carry Taser should be trained and equipped with these devices, something the Federation has been demanding for some time.
Here in Derbyshire, we embarked on a project to Taser train divisional officers throughout the Force in Taser in January 2016 and 100 PCs and 10 sergeants on a half and half split North and South underwent training in the first year of the roll-out. Since that date we have maintained those numbers by topping up natural wastage, promotions and so on.
Then, late last year, the Chief Constable agreed an uplift in Taser trained officers at a rate of 100 a year for three years with Year 1 beginning in April this year. So far, our Taser Training Unit has trained 63 officers of the 100 for 2019/20 so this gives us almost 180 divisional officers Taser trainer as well as 95 from Ops and 56 firearms officers.
To enable the uplift to be delivered, the Taser Training Unit has also grown from one sergeant and two PCs to a sergeant and five PCs, and these will be increased to a total of eight.
The Force is also investing in the development of an existing training venue to make it fit for modern Taser training and also allow for two training events to take place at the same time without disturbing one another.
In the first eight months of this year, there have been 288 Taser authorities given and it has been used 164 times. The majority of uses has been red dot (86) but it has only been discharged 16 times, demonstrating the effectiveness of the device in terms of de-escalating the vast majority of incidents.
We, of course, welcome the Force’s commitment to getting as many officers trained and equipped with Taser as it can afford to. We appreciate it does not have infinite funds and everything has to be prioritised as the Force tries to make the most effective use of its funding. However, what we would really like to see is the Government giving forces the funding for a full roll-out of Taser. We will keep up the pressure. Our officers need and deserve the best equipment to protect themselves and their communities.