Special agents will have access to stun guns as part of a wave of criminal initiatives, the Home Secretary told the Police Federation on Tuesday.
Speaking at their conference in Manchester, Priti Patel will announce that part-time special constables will be allowed to use electroshock weapons – if properly trained and with the permission of chief officers.
But Amnesty International UK’s police expert warned that arming volunteer officers is ‘dangerous’ and will inevitably lead to ‘more cases of Taser abuse, serious injury and death’.
It’s part of a series of measures included in ‘Operation Sceptre’ – the name given to the government’s tackling crime week.
A controversial measure announced on Monday will allow officers to stop and search people without reasonable cause. Police chiefs say they have not asked ministers for such changes.
The government has announced that changes to stop and search without suspicion, known as stops under section 60, will now become permanent. Arrests under Section 60 have a huge racial disproportion, with black people 18 times more likely to be arrested than white people, according to official figures.
A spokesperson for the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) told the Guardian: ‘Although we have regular conversations with the government about our powers, this has not been directly requested by the National Chiefs Council. from police.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that we strike a balance between fighting crime and building trust in our communities, learning from cases where we have not always struck the right balance.
“Section 60 powers to stop and search anyone in a designated area can be effective where there have been violent incidents or where officers believe there is a high risk of violence. Senior officers authorize them with the intention of saving lives and preventing people from suffering harm.
“We will work with the government to consider how any changes to powers can be used in practice, in a proportionate and consistent way. Section 60 is not a new power for police services, but it clarifies how the legislation can be used.
A 2021 report by Her Majesty’s Constabulary Inspectorate on stop and search highlighted concerns about Section 60. It said: ‘Blacks, Asians and ethnic minorities are 6, 7 times more likely to be searched under Section 60 than whites, and blacks are 18.1 times more likely. Forces need to analyze their data to understand why.
Under Section 60, police can declare people in an area to be searched without officers needing to have reasonable suspicion.
Restrictions were put in place in 2014 when Theresa May was Home Secretary. Stop and search remains a fault line between police and communities.
Now the police can use Article 60, with the threshold shifting from the belief that serious violence “will happen” to “may happen”.
But in a press release last night, the government said the Section 60 restriction had “limited when officers could use life power and hampered their ability to clear the streets of dangerous weapons…By allowing the police to more easily seize more weapons, the government supports forces to reduce knife crime and save more lives. »
Section 60 clearances can stay in place longer, be cleared and extended by a lower-ranking officer than before, and the public need not be notified that it has been enacted.
Compared to when David Cameron and Theresa May were in power, the current Conservative government believes police should make more stops and with fewer restrictions, citing thousands of guns taken off the streets as a result.
Most people arrested have nothing illegal on them.
Leaked documents show most of the public do not believe ministers’ promises to tackle crime, the Guardian reported last month. Polls carried out for the government showed that, despite the high fear of crime, few ministers were confident they could tackle it.
Only one in three of those polled believed they could fight crime, their own paper notes: “Current initiatives to fight crime do not reach the public – only about a third (35%) say they have confidence in the government’s management of crime and justice, and awareness of crime control plan is weak. »