The funding, which will be split between Sussex and Surrey Police, means there will be 291 extra Tasers across Sussex, taking the total to more than 1,100.
According to Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, roughly £300,000 of the funding will be spent on Sussex Police and will allow 80 per cent of frontline officers to have access to the distance-control weapon.
Tasers are used to temporarily paralyse an attacker by firing two small dart-like electrodes, which stay connected to the weapon by conductive wire as they are propelled by small compressed nitrogen charges.
They penetrate clothing and are barbed to prevent removal once in place. When connected to the attacker electric volts are sent coursing through the wire and into the perpetrator.
City of London Police have put Taser voltage amps into context on their website. A spokesperson said, “Amps can vary in size, no more than 13 amps are needed to power a kettle. Thirty-two amps are usually found running around a typical house. Two to three amps are enough to cause a person some harm. Taser runs on considerably less at 0.0021 amps.”
Sussex Police were out practising their Taser use earlier this week (March 2) at the Kingstanding Training Centre, in Uckfield, when the news came in.
Chief Inspector of the Sussex Police operations department Simon Starns said, “Very happy to see to see some funding from the government. Over the moon about it because it allows us to have more capacity.
“Increasing the number of non-firearms officers carrying Taser across the county is critical to keeping our officers, suspects and members of the public safe.
“It’s also a fantastic move in terms of us being able to get to an incident and resolve it quicker by having more equipped officers. The more officers who have a Taser won’t feel quite such a need to drive so quickly to an incident, which could put the public in danger.”
Chf Insp Starns said using a Taser was a ‘means to an end’ in high risk situations.
He said, “This is a resolution where the anticipation of violence is so high and it isn’t a negotiation. This is a means to an end to use the minimal amount of force as possible to resolve the situation.
“They are all experienced officers, all have experienced conflict and how to resolve a situation using verbal means and others, but this is for them to have another tool to effectively resolve an incident.”
Chf Insp Starns said this was not compensation for fewer police on the streets and also debunked some myths the public may have surrounding Taser.
He said, “It’s not a compensation, it’s just a modern way of equipping people. The same way as we’ve all got mobile phones and devices now so we can communicate better.
“It certainly isn’t going to cause long-term harm. It’s certainly no more harm than any other kind of use of force in relation to restraining people. Injuries are significantly less, as a result of Taser, on officers who don’t have to use force.”
Sussex Police public order trainer Lou Wright said, “Tasers allow us not to go into somebody fighting us. If someone is coming at us with a samurai sword or knives, which is incredibly popular with criminals at the moment, I don’t want to be getting into a fight with them.
“Taser allows me 25 feet to work in so that I can deploy it safely and not be rolling around with somebody with a knife, which is just incredibly dangerous. One slip of that knife and you’re gone. So we’re really liking this as an extra tool for our belts.”
The officer said training is comprehensive, and detailed how a real life situation would pan out where she would use the Taser.
She said, “You take the information and intelligence, you look at the threat and risks around you; are you on your own?
“Are there threats to members of the public? Are there other colleagues that don’t have Taser but you’re carrying? And that all goes through your mind before you make the decision to deploy. It’s a great tool to have.”
The officer, who has been with Sussex Police for 15 years, issued a message to members of the public who may be cynical about the equipment.
She said, “It’s not a weapon of torture as some people like to portray it.
“It’s gone through many medical examinations, and we have had it now for five years. It’s very much the norm to us and we’d like it to be the norm for members of the public.
“It’s just a distance control weapon, it’s not a gun, and chances of injuries afterwards are very, very slim.”
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne was also at the training centre and was delighted with the successful funding bid.
She said, “I wholeheartedly back the chief’s decision to make Tasers available for Sussex Police officers who want to carry one and I’m delighted that we have been successful in our bid to the Home Office to make this a reality.
“We can now better protect those who put themselves at risk every day to keep us all safe.
“What we’re seeing now is more officers requesting it and wanting it. Increasingly we are seeing officers deployed in quite dangerous situations and, with the rising county lines and knife crime as well, they are turning out to more situations and want the safety and the knowledge they’ve got Taser there.
“Seeing the robust training in action for myself today, I’m confident in the fact that officers will only use these devices if absolutely necessary, when other de-escalation tactics fail, and when they have to, they will do so safely for all involved.”