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More Tasers for cops: not in London

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The Home Office's recently announced plan to issue Taser electric stunguns more widely to police has been endorsed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). However the extra Tasers have been turned down for now by the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), the governing body of London coppers.

The Met already has 350 Tasers, some carried by firearms units and some by specially-trained officers in the Territorial Support Group (TSG) - a multi-roled unit probably best known for riot policing.

According to the MPA, it has "no intention of immediately sanctioning any increase in the availability of Tasers to officers in the Met".

The governing body was well known to be sceptical about Tasers, and said last year that it was only permitting the TSG to have the stunguns in order to be part of the national debate on the weapons' use.

"Both the MPA and [the Met] will pause to take stock before deciding whether to take advantage of the extra funding," said the MPA in a statement, after the Home Office plans were announced.

Meanwhile the IPCC has just released a report (pdf) into complaints arising from police Taser use. Deborah Glass, IPCC commissioner responsible for firearms matters, set out the watchdog's position.

“Our conclusion to date is that public complaints about the use of Taser are minimal, especially when compared with the number of instances where its use has saved lives or prevented injuries," she said.

“IPCC supports a gradual and monitored extension of the use of Taser and will continue to monitor any complaints of abuse and raise any concerns.”

However the IPCC did note that, while Taser discharges - with barbs shot from the gun to hit and shock a suspect - had led to few complaints, the use of "drive stun" contact-zapper mode was an area of concern.

“We note that use of the Taser in ‘drive-stun’ mode (directly against the body) generates most complaints and have recommended to the Association of Chief Police Officers that there is a need for more training and better guidance for police on this," said Glass.

In previous Home Office figures, discharges have been five or more times as common as "drive stun" uses. Many incidents in which Tasers are drawn involve no shocking at all.

Nonetheless, London's MPA seems unconvinced at least for the present about the merits of Taser. The MPA is well known for taking a contrary stance to the IPCC, of course. The Authority has famously backed the current Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, through repeated calls for his resignation - even after his conduct in the wake of the fatal Jean Charles de Menezes incident was publicly questioned by the IPCC. ®

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