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Thames Valley Police officers to be armed with more Tasers
MORE police could be armed with Tasers for their own protection after a rise in violent attacks on officers.
There were more than 200 assaults on police officers and special constables from April 2011 to March 2012, compared with about 160 five years ago.
And Ms Thornton said yesterday the rise had prompted a review of Taser deployment.
She said: “The Taser is a really powerful deterrent. “The threat is sufficient for someone to comply with the demands of a police officer.
“It is safer for the individual and safer for the officers.”
At present, the electric shock guns are used by about 200 specially-trained firearms police out of the 4,200 officers in the Thames Valley.
And last year the force authorised the use of Tasers 833 times but they were fired only 13 times.
Tasers were deployed for 393 incidents involving weapons, 121 threats of self harm or suicide, and 107 domestic incidents.
Ms Thornton asked a working group to look into the wider use of Tasers earlier this month before the deaths of two police women in Manchester.
She said: “Clearly the deaths of two police officers in Manchester was a terrible event for colleagues in Manchester, and it’s fair to say it’s been a shock to the whole force.
“It’s reignited the debate on whether police should be routinely armed in this country.”
But she added: “One of the strengths of this country is most of the policing is done by unarmed officers.”
However, she said as chief constable she had a responsibility to make sure her officers were safe. It is not known yet how many officers could be trained to use Taser weapons.
The working group will report back to Ms Thornton in December, and after consultation and training, new officers could be using Tasers in summer next year.
Ms Thornton added: “I want them to suggest to me how we can get better coverage across the whole of the Thames Valley, so if we need Tasers we can get them to the incident more quickly.”
Andy Viney, secretary of the Thames Valley Police Federation, said it had asked the chief constable to review Taser policy over concerns about attacks on police and the time taken to get the weapons to rural areas.
He said: “It’s a case of putting it where it is needed, not a case of routinely arming everyone with Tasers.”
Collaboration with the neighbouring force started last year and Thames Valley Police expects it to save £8.5m.
They share a dog unit, roads policing, operational planning, and from next month a firearms department.
The forces also share an ICT department and a information management unit.
WORKING WITH HAMPSHIRE
Ms Thornton said the forces may consider having joint control rooms.
Andy Viney, of the Thames Valley Police Federation, said it seemed to be a logical step, adding: “It would not surprise me.”
Despite Thames Valley Police losing about 20 per cent of government funding over four years, Ms Thornton said crime had fallen 13 per cent from April 2011 to March this year – the second best fall
in England and Wales.
She put this down to stronger partnership work with local authorities and focusing on key criminals.
She said: “Of course some of that is down to good policing but also down to good partnership work.
“Our focus has been to cut the budget but not the service.”
Since April, violence against the person fell by 22 per cent in Oxford and burglary of homes by 18 per cent. The target decrease for both was five per cent.
The force plans to save a total of £55.5m through efficiency measures by 2014/15.
Nine men are due to appear at the Old Bailey court in London today charged with involvement in an alleged child sex ring in Oxford.
The case follows dawn raids in the city in March.
Yesterday a damning report into how social services and police handled a child sex case in Rochdale was published.
Ms Thornton said: “When the trial is completed we will be reviewing to see what lessons can be learnt.
“What we are beginning to do is review our own processes. I need to be confident that our processes of child protection are working well.”
In June, the force pledged to spend £500,000 on investigating child sexual exploitation.
SERIOUS SEX OFFENCES
The detection rate for serious sex offences – those that result in a charge, conviction, or caution – is 25 per cent so far this financial year.
This is below the force target of 30 per cent.
Ms Thornton said: “It’s a very challenging target. We are some way off that but we are getting better during the year and I think we might get quite close to it by March.
“We are really committed to bringing the offenders to court.”
She said the force was working better with the Crown Prosecution Service to bring about stronger charges.