Tower Hamlets is the first borough to equip non-specialist police officers with controversial Taser-like stun guns that charge 50,000 volts electrodes, from Monday, February 18.
The eight stun guns, costing just under £1000 each, have been issued to the Tower Hamlets police force. The move comes as part of the increasingly widespread introduction of these weapons by the Metropolitan Police across London.
Chief Inspector Mick Sanderson said: “These guns are very effective and they cause no long-term damage, and minimal short-term damage.
“We have had a certain amount of community engagement already and have generally had positive feedback in terms of its use and viability to officers against violent criminals,” he said.
The officers selected to carry the guns have undergone a three-day training on how to use it.
Approval of stun guns for non-specialist police officers has sparked discussions and raised concerns regarding the safety and necessity of their use.
Beth Murphy, head of information at Mind, mental health charity, said: “Our concern is that as Taser use becomes widespread, with new powers in places like Tower Hamlets, their use to ‘calm’ people with mental health problems will increase.
“When you are in crisis, your mind is in meltdown. You need help, compassion and understanding and to be made safe, not shot with 50,000 volts of electricity,” she said.
Stun guns, more commonly known by their brand name, ‘Tasers’, were already used in London by the Metropolitan Police on a trial basis in 2003. They were only issued to specialist police officers.
The guns were previously just allowed to be used when officers were confronting an armed attacker, but it was extended to include serious violence and threats in July 2007.
Currently, 40 armed specialist officers from five London boroughs – Barking and Dagenham, Bromley, Enfield, Harrow and Kingston – are already equipped with stun-guns.
By Nazim Ahmad