Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government’s “crucial duty” is to make communities safe as it faces criticism over plans to give volunteer police officers powers to use Tasers.
Home Secretary Priti Patel is set to make the Tasers announcement on Tuesday as she delivers a speech at the Police Federation Conference, where she is also expected to call for “higher standards”, arguing that the public are in “urgent need of reassurance”.
Allowing special constables to carry electroshock weapons, if authorised by their chief officers, will ensure they are not “at a disadvantage when facing an attacker wielding a knife or a marauding terrorist”, the Home Office said.
Mr Johnson told a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street on Tuesday: “The crucial duty of our Government is to make our communities safe, which is what we are doing.
“That’s why we put, of the 20,000 police that we promised at the 2019 election, we have already put 13,576 on the streets.
“They are bringing down neighbourhood crime and that’s a great thing to see.
“But we have got more to do to make sure that our streets are safer and we will round up those county lines drugs gangs in the way that we are doing through project Adder.
“We will take the criminals off the streets, stopping the deaths from knife crime and gun crime.”
However, the move to arm volunteer police with the weapons, which deliver an electric current through two small barbed darts, has been branded as “dangerous” by Amnesty International UK’s policing expert, who said it will lead to “more instances of misuse, serious harm and death from Tasers”.
The volunteers will receive the same training as constables, with deployment of the weapons remaining an operational matter for police chiefs.
Oliver Feeley-Sprague, Amnesty International UK’s policing expert and a member of the independent advisory group to the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on Tasers, said: “Arming volunteer officers is a dangerous expansion of Taser use and will inevitably lead to the increased firing of Tasers and more instances of misuse, serious harm and death from Tasers.”
He said Tasers are “potentially lethal” weapons linked to hundreds of deaths in the USA and a “growing number” of deaths in Britain.
Speaking at the conference in Manchester, the Home Secretary is expected to say: “Human rights are not just for criminals but the law-abiding majority, and that means standing squarely with the police.”
Ms Patel is also set to use her conference speech to acknowledge that the public are in “urgent need of reassurance” following the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer.
Former Pc Wayne Couzens was handed a whole-life term last year for the rape and murder of the 33-year-old after he abducted her in south London on March 3 2021.
Mr Johnson told the Cabinet meeting the Government wants to make victims of domestic and sexual violence confident they are on their side.
“What we are also doing is making sure that we give everybody the confidence that we are on their side when it comes to their experience of crimes, and particularly crimes of sexual and domestic violence”, he said.
“We want to see more prosecutions for those who engage in such crimes. We want to see more rapists brought to justice.
“I am pleased to see that, thanks to efforts of several of you across the table who have been working very, very hard, we are starting to see progress.
“This matters deeply to me, it matters to our Government. It’s vital to every person, every woman, and every girl in this country that we get this right.”