The Government are committed to giving the police the tools they need to do their job effectively and ensuring that officers’ access to specialist equipment such as conducted energy devices (CEDs), commonly known as Tasers, can remain aligned with police assessments of threat and risk. CEDs are an important tactical option for specially trained officers, particularly in potentially violent situations where other tactics have been considered or failed.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has today given his approval for chief officers of police forces in England and Wales to train selected student officers to carry CEDs where they have identified an operational need to do so. It is for chief officers to determine the number of CED devices and specially trained officers they require, based on their force’s strategic threat and risk assessment. This change allows chief officers to consider student officers for CED training and deployment, provided they have met certain selection criteria, to help ensure frontline officers can protect themselves and the public.
I would like to assure the House that the existing high standards around CED training and operational deployment, for which the UK is renowned, will be maintained. It will remain voluntary whether an individual student officer applies for special CED training, and the CED training itself will remain the same—with the same standards needing to be met for a student officer to pass the assessment.
Additional safeguards have been put into place for the extension of CED use to student officers. Only student officers who have been assessed by supervisors to be sufficiently competent and experienced in dealing with incidents involving conflict will be able to apply for CED training. The College of Policing has developed a robust application framework for student constables which sets this out, including a post-use process to support continued officer development. Details of this proposal were submitted for independent medical review by the scientific advisory committee on the medical implications of less-lethal weapons (SACMILL).
The Home Secretary’s decision to approve this measure follows stringent consideration of a number of factors including: the request for approval from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), the College of Policing’s application and post-use development framework and the views of SACMILL.
We are also clear that any use of force by police officers must be lawful, proportionate and reasonable in the circumstances. The Government are committed to improving transparency and accountability around use of force. This is why we initiated reforms to the way in which use of force data is recorded and published. On 13 December 2018, the Home Office published national “police use of force” statistics on gov.uk for the first time—providing unprecedented transparency and accountability. In addition, I expect any police forces who decide to extend CED use to student officers to monitor the impact of this change, including local consideration of injury data.