The majority of the public support the wider rollout of Tasers to police officers in England and Wales, a Police Federation survey suggests.
It comes as the Home Office is set to decide whether to allow an upgraded Taser model to be issued to police. About 20,000 police officers in England and Wales – one in six – are currently allowed to use Tasers.
The federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, argues they should be available to all who want one. They are “vital” in dealing with violence and the threat from terrorism, it says. Its Ipsos MORI poll of 2,004 people suggests 71% of people think it is acceptable for officers on patrol to carry the weapon.
Of those surveyed, four out of five people said that if an officer was carrying a Taser, it would make no difference to their likelihood of approaching them for assistance. However, nearly one in five people (17%) said they did not believe all police officers should be given the option of being equipped with a Taser.
Tasers were introduced by UK police forces in 2003, following trials in some force areas.
Since 2004, at least 19 people in England and Wales have died after police deployed the weapon.
In September, the Home Affairs Select Committee criticised police forces for a “complete lack on consistency” over whether officers armed with Tasers were also deployed with body cameras. Of the people surveyed, 89% said police forces should be allowed to train and equip officers if their use of Taser was automatically recorded by a body camera.
Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation, said: “We know officers support the use of Taser and Body Worn Video, and now we have the evidence that shows the public do as well.”
The Federation has written to all chief constables and commissioners across England and Wales to urge them to support a wider rollout of Tasers.