Priti Patel said she was ‘very proudly pro-police’ as she unveiled plans last week to give volunteer police officers the powers to use weapons while on duty.
Allowing special constables, who are unpaid, to carry the electroshock devices if authorised by chief constables, will ensure they are not ‘at a disadvantage when facing an attacker wielding a knife or a marauding terrorist’, the Home Secretary said.
The decision has been welcomed by Kent Police’s Chief Constable.
Alan Pughsley told the Times that while the force has already been training its Specials in the use of Tasers, until the change in the rules they have been unable to carry them on operational duties.
He said: “Here in Kent, Special Constables are trained to exactly the same standard as regular officers and play an important role in all areas of operational policing, so I welcome the announcement from the Home Secretary that they will be given the option of carrying a Taser, which comes as part of a range of new measures for policing nationally in the fight against violent crime.”
Last year, officers in Kent Police drew their Tasers 978 times while on operations, although only around half of those cases (585 incidents) involved an officer actually discharging the weapon.
But groups such as Amnesty International UK has branded the decision by the Home Secretary ‘dangerous’ and said it will lead to ‘more instances of misuse, serious harm and death from Tasers’.
Mr Pughsley dismissed such concerns, saying: “The training and assessment process is rigorous and is in addition to the use of force training and resolution of conflict training that all officers undergo.
“We know the deterrence effect a Taser can have on violent criminals. It causes people to think twice before they use violence and the majority of incidents where Taser is deployed are resolved without the device being discharged.
“This announcement by the government will allow them to carry out their duties safe in the knowledge they have the necessary equipment to protect themselves and the public.”