According to the Guardian, Steve White, the chairman of the Police Federation, has called for a change from the current system where 10 per cent of officers carry the non-lethal weapon. Evidence of terrorist plots to attack an officer moved White to make the call, as most members of the force are unarmed.
White told the Guardian:
The terrorist ideal to get attention no longer relies on an attack being in a place of note. It could be in Cheam high street, in any town, in any part of the UK. We know there are more dangerous people out there, preparing to attack police officers and we need to be able to respond to that threat.
The terrorism threat level for police was raised two severe two weeks ago.
The move to arm all officers would be expensive. In order to use a Taser, police must pass a three-day training course which costs about £1,000. A Taser costs $999 to buy in the US (£663 if we assume the same pricing). That means the police would face a bill of over £190m to make sure the remaining 90 per cent of the 127,000 rank and file officers are armed.
The devices have been used in London, with Metropolitan Police figures showing they were fired 248 times in London during 2013 (the last year for which there is complete data). Fired means the taser is used with a cartridge, meaning the device launches barbs at the target which then attach and incapacitate him or her.
Tasers are not without controversy. They can generate up to 50,000 volts, although this amount is often misquoted. The number is the amount the device generates in order to “arc” the current between to contacts, while the voltage delivered to a target is much lower at around 1,200 volts. Volts themselves aren’t harmful however, with current being the more relevant measure.
According to the Metropolitan Police, the average current a Taser emits is 0.0021amps.
A Taser works not by power, but by the way it sends the current into the body and how the muscles respond. For example, the energy delivered per pulse is 0.07 joules compared to a cardiac defibrillator which typically delivers 150-400 joules per pulse, which is 2,000 to 5,000 times more powerful.
Nevertheless, there have been deaths associated with the taser: around 10 people over the last decade have had their deaths linked to being tasered, one as recently as 22 December last year.