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Police use of Taser stun gun rises by 80% in Merseyside
POLICE in Merseyside used electronic stun guns more than 300 times over a two-year period, latest figures out today show.
Between August 2009 and December 2011, Tasers were used 370 times.
The disabling devices were used on 51 occasions in 2009 compared to 195 in 2011, representing an increase of nearly 80%.
In a statement, Merseyside Police said: “Officers are highly-trained and skilled to deal with any number of situations that they may face.
“The use of Taser offers them a further tool in dealing with incidents where the safety of the public, the individual or officers themselves is under threat.
“It has proved to be effective in reducing injuries to all parties during arrest.”
Nationally, the use of Tasers rose from a combined 3,128 deployments in 2009 to 6,649 in 2010 and 7,877 in 2011, the Home Office data revealed.
However, the percentage of uses where the Taser does not make contact with the suspect, such as when it is drawn and aimed so a laser red dot is placed on the subject, has consistently remained between 72% and 75%.
In 2004, following a trial in five forces, it was agreed to allow chief officers of all police forces in England and Wales to make Taser available to authorised firearms officers.
Merseyside was among one of ten forces were they were again tested in 2007 and 2008.
There have been several controversial cases involving use of the stun guns - including blind pensioner Colin Farmer who was hit with the weapon in Chorley, Lancashire, when an officer mistook his white stick for a Samurai sword.
In 2009, 23.2% of Taser deployments involved the stun gun being fired, as opposed to just drawn, while this dropped to 20.4% in 2010 and then rose slightly to 20.8% in 2011.
Director of Amnesty International UK Kate Allen told the Press Association that only small numbers of officers should be trained in their use.
She said: "The increasing roll-out of Tasers across the UK is a grave concern. Amnesty International is worried about every bobby on the beat having a Taser on their belt - it's not a modern truncheon."
Solicitor Jules Carey, representing several clients taking legal action over stun gun use, said the range and volume of weapons available to police has risen consistently since 1995, despite falling crime.
He said: "It is not merely the size of the police arsenals that are of concern to the public, it's a general lack of confidence in police officers using the weapons appropriately, or having the judgment to assess what constitutes a proportionate response."
But President of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales, Irene Curtis, said: "It is not a surprise that the number of deployments has increased because the number of people with access to Tasers has increased in that time.
“We support the roll-out of Tasers. We think it's a really useful tool that officers can use and can help reduce injuries to the public and to police officers."
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