A Leading Essex police officer is calling on the force to treble the number of cops trained to use tasers to combat the soaring number of attacks on officers.
Around 70 officers are trained to use the non-lethal weapon, but as policing numbers dwindle, Essex Police Federation chairman Mark Smith says more must be done to protect those out on duty.
“If you look at Essex Police compared to other forces around the country, we are quite low on the amount of officers we have trained to use tasers,” he said.
“Assaults on police are extremely high at the moment; tasers should not be looked at as firearms, they are personal protective equipment, no different to CS gas, or an officer's ASP baton.
“The right tool needs to be used at the right time but they should be used more widely to protect both officers and the general public.
“We know that money is short and I'm not asking for more equipment; we have the equipment, we just want to have more officers trained up to use them when necessary.”
His call for action comes just days after a man armed with a blow torch threatened to kill officers in a stand-off in Chelmsford.
A 23-year-old man was arrested just before 8.15pm on Wednesday, May 4, on suspicion of threats to kill. Police had been contacted after concerns were raised about the man in West Avenue.
Inspector Lee Devall said: “Officers equipped with tasers arrested a man threatening them with a blow torch for threats to kill.
“They talked him down and no one was hurt. All were unharmed and it was resolved peacefully in the end.”
The man was subsequently released without charge.”
There had been a hope to get every officer in the force trained up, a situation Mr Smith admits “isn't going to happen”, but said that Chief Constable of Essex Police Stephen Kavanagh was open to boosting the numbers.
“We would like to get as many officers trained as soon as possible,” he added.
“I want to at least treble what we have at the moment.
“If there's a situation and there's no support immediately available, it helps the morale of officers and the safety of the officers.
“It is not always a case of firing a taser and putting a volt into someone; just being drawn or using the red dot can be enough to deter people.
“If training up more officers to use tasers can stop just one officer or one member of the public from being assaulted, it is worth its weight in gold.”
The plan would involve response and patrol officers taught best practice when using tasers, alongside firearms officers and mutual-aid trained officers.
“What we don't want to happen is to have the quality of trained officers to drop, or to have the standard of training diminish in any way,” Mr Smith added.
“Rightly, police are held accountable for our actions, so I'm just asking for more officers to be trained in how to use them.”
According to Government figures for the last financial year – published in July 2015 –there were 353 recorded assaults and 418 assaults without injury on a constable recorded in Essex, part of 23,000 assaults on police officers across England and Wales in the same time-frame.
But new a new transparency drive will see full figures of assaults on police officers released in the weeks to come, a move which could unveil a more complete picture.
“I think they've got to have the correct data,” said Mr Smith.
“We've got to be open and honest about what is happening out there.
“We've also got to be open and honest about cuts to policing, we need to be open and honest about assaults.
“Police officer assaults aren't likely to go up, they're already high, they just weren't being recorded or reported.
“So the recording and reporting will go up. The officer assaults are already high, we know they're high, we just need some honesty in reporting that because it's not right that we're ignoring officers being assaulted.”
Late last month, the Home Office released figures showing how many times each of the UK's police forces used tasers.
The figures, for the entirety of 2015, show that Essex Police used their weapons on 152 separate occasions, the most of any of the forces in the East of England.
Of those 152, only 28 incidents actually saw the taser discharged, while the majority, 88, saw police use the aiming red dot as a deterrent.
Nationally, 10,329 incidents were recorded, with the Met Police the single biggest contributor, using their tasers 1,954 times.
Across the UK, the figure rose 2 per cent year-on-year, but the total amount of discharges actually fell by 3 per cent.