The Metropolitan police is spending more than £800,000 a year on equipping response vehicles in London with Tasers, despite growing concern among human rights campaigners and some politicians over their use.
A question to the mayor’s office for policing and crime by Jenny Jones, assembly member for the Greens, reveals the budget for the weapons will be £817,864 a year during the first stage of the rollout, which will eventually equip response vehicles with Tasers in each of the capital’s 32 boroughs.
Met commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has said he wants to see the stun guns in everyday use by response cars – a change in policy from their previous use, which was restricted to specialist firearms officers and TSG officers.
The first stage of the rollout will see Tasers extended to Bromley, Kingston, Harrow, Barking and Dagenham, and Enfield. The Met is increasing the number of Tasers from 800 to more than 6,500.
“Last October police in Lancashire Tasered a 61-year-old blind man after mistaking his white stick for a samurai sword,” said Jones. “That case, along with many others, shows the problems of the widespread adoption of Tasers. I fear the rollout will increase the risk of mistakes happening in London, making people less safe.
“The Metropolitan Police Authority put real restraints on the police use of Tasers as it recognised the danger of every officer being armed in that way.
“Sadly … Hogan-Howe and the Mayor’s office for policing and crime have made clear their intention to expand their use.”
Before its abolition the Metropolitan Police Authority had opposed the wider rollout of Tasers to non-firearms officers because of concerns that an increase in their use could weaken the confidence of the public in the police.
Before 2008 Tasers were restricted to specially trained officers but their use increased by 45% in 2011 and the number of times the stun guns are deployed is expected to continue rising as many forces roll them out to rank and file officers.
The IPCC is investigating the case of Colin Farmer, the blind man Tasered by police in Lancashire after they mistook his white stick for a weapon. Farmer, who was walking to the pub at the time, said the use of the Taser caused him to drop his stick and fall to the ground.
Last October a 22-year-old man from Liverpool, James McCarthy, suffered a cardiac arrest after being Tasered four times by Merseyside police. The force has referred the matter to the IPCC.
The Police Federation of England and Wales wants to treble the number of officers using Tasers from 12,000 to 36,000.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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