On the front line with the Taser

PUBLISHED: 10:33 14 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:57 11 May 2010

STUN guns capable of delivering a 50,000 volt electric shock will be available to more front-line police officers in Crow country this spring. At present, Tasers, which are described as a less lethal alternative to conventional guns, can only be used by

STUN guns capable of delivering a 50,000 volt electric shock will be available to more front-line police officers in Crow country this spring.

At present, Tasers, which are described as a "less lethal" alternative to conventional guns, can only be used by specialist firearms personnel.

But Herts police have announced that some non-firearms officers are to be allowed to carry the weapons.

And on Monday, there was a Taser demonstration by firearms officer inspector Gordon Mitchell.

He said the force had decided to extend its use of the device, which has been blamed for a number of deaths in the US and Canada, "for the protection of its officers, the public, and the subject".

Insp Mitchell described Tasers as "a good tool in the tool box", available to front-line officers, and said the guns, which cost £925 each, would only be drawn "if a person is offering violence or the threat of violence".

He added that, unlike batons and CS spray, officers must seek authorisation from a superior before they can draw or fire a Taser.

Non-firearms officers who may get access to Tasers will need to pass a three-day training course, during which they will be taught about the guns and the implications of their use.

Insp Mitchell described the course as "challenging".

"I know the firearms course is extremely demanding," he said.

"We have had to try to compact some of that knowledge into three days for Tasers."

The device, which has a maximum range of 21ft, fires two metal barbs which are connected to the gun by insulated copper cables.

These needle-tipped darts pierce the subject's clothing or skin, before administering a 50,000 volt electric shock, designed to cause rapid muscle contractions which temporarily paralyse the target.

Between April and December 2008, a Taser was discharged only once in Hertfordshire, and Insp Mitchell said that simply drawing the gun would often cause the target to comply.

Tasers have already been given to 25 non-firearms personnel in Watford.

They will be supplied to 25 officers in Stevenage and North Herts in March, and 25 in Cheshunt in June.

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