Ian Weinfass, Senior reporter
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Police officers in Havering now have access to their own tasers for use during emergency calls.
Four electroshock weapons are now available in the borough – on top of officers being able to call in specialist armed police units.
But one critic has described the move as leaving the public “less safe”.
It comes as part of police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe’s plans to roll out the stun guns to local officers rather than just have specialist armed units to cover the whole of London with them.
Acting Havering borough commander, Det Supt Tony Bennett, said: “I believe the use of tasers in Havering is a positive step.
“We can have officers who are called to deal with dangerous violent suspects who may, through their own actions, cause dangers to themselves, officers and members of the public.
“Having taser as an option available to our officers reduces risk to all and enhances our capabilities to respond effectively.”
But London Assembly member Jenny Jones (Green, London-wide), who is deputy chairman of the authority’s police and crime committee, said: “Last October police in Lancashire tasered a 61-year-old blind man after mistaking his white stick for a samurai sword.
“That case, along with many others, shows the problems of the widespread adoption of tasers.
“I fear the roll out will increase the risk of mistakes happening in London, making people less safe.”
A Havering Police spokesman said that the weapons will only be used by specially trained officers to diffuse potentially violent situations.
He added: “Research shows that 80pc of taser incidents did not involve discharge of the weapon – just drawing it was enough to diffuse the situation.
“Tasers enable the restraint of violent offenders safely and efficiently.
“It is often less harmful to offenders than striking them with an ASP (baton) or using CS spray, and it is less lethal than using a firearm.”
The spokesman added that neighbouring Barking & Dagenham has had the use of tasers since mid-2012.