police chief constable and PCC

The number of Taser trained officers in Avon and Somerset Police will increase to 650 by April 2021 in response to a rising number of assaults on officers.

The review comes following figures showing the number of assaults on Avon and Somerset officers has risen by 54 per cent over the past two years.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh said on Wednesday: “The safety of officers is paramount and it’s vital we equip them with the skills and tools required to carry out their jobs effectively and without fear of harm. Policing can be dangerous and while we regularly deal with difficult and hostile situations, no-one should come to work in fear of being assaulted.”

“It’s vital we take an evidence-based approach in deciding how many officers carry Tasers based on the current threat and risk levels. A recent review of this assessment has found we need to increase the number of Taser trained officers by 204, to a total of 650 by April 2021.”

“Taser trained officers are deployed evenly across our Force area and within different operational units in line with this threat assessment. This latest uplift will see the number of patrol officers trained in the use of Taser rise to 45 per cent, but there are also Taser trained officers in Neighbourhood, Roads Policing and other specialist frontline roles.”

Mr Marsh continued: “All officers equipped with Taser are highly trained and undergo a rigorous selection process. This training focusses on use of force, decision making, officer safety training and first aid.”

“We’re the first force in the country to introduce de-escalation training to all frontline staff, which gives officers the skills to defuse hostile situations through negotiation. We know from the last time we increased the number of Taser trained officers by 15 per cent that it led to a decrease in the number of overall Taser deployments.”

“Increasing the number of Taser trained officers is not the only way we can better protect our officers and communities from harm. There’s a comprehensive national review under way looking at officers’ safety and one of the things I’m focusing on is ensuring Body Worn Video footage showing assaults on officers taking place is shown to the courts in every case, regardless of whether the defendant pleads guilty or not. We need to ensure the deterrents are there to prevent these assaults from happening in the first place.”

PCC Sue Mountstevens: “Our Scrutiny of Police Powers Panel (SOPP), which is an independent panel made up of people from across our communities, will continue to review body worn video in order to monitor and scrutinise the use of police powers – including cases involving use of Taser.”

“This independent oversight and scrutiny ensures that there is transparency and accountability where there is any use of force. The Constabulary regularly releases use of force statistics and plans going forward, to make this clearer and more accessible to the public, will also help with transparency where use of force is concerned.”

“We’re pleased that following discussions between the SOPP and the Constabulary, de-escalation training is being introduced for front line officers to ensure that Taser is a last line of defence and only used when absolutely necessary.”

“It’s important to ensure officers are equipped with the tools they need to do their jobs safely and we support the Constabulary approach of doing this in an evidence-based and proportionate way.”

Police Federation Chair Andy Roebuck added: “As a Federation, we welcome this uplift as we believe officer and staff safety is a top priority. I’ve spoken with numerous officers who’ve been assaulted and they tell me of the impact that it has on them and their families. This can be emotional and psychological, as well as physical. No police officer or staff member should have to go home and explain their injuries to their loved ones.”

“We’ve been working with the Constabulary to prevent and deter assaults on staff. This uplift is just one important measure which we believe will enhance trust and confidence from our staff and our communities. We’ll continue to work with the Constabulary on a range of other measures aimed at deterring those who commit offences like this.”