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10 January 2013, 11:34
Thames Valley Police will equip nearly 300 more officers with Tasers after a rise in the number of assaults on staff.
The force said the number of officers trained to use the electronic shock weapon would increase by 280 to 485.
Currently only firearms officers in the force are permitted to carry and use Taser devices, which use an electric current to stun an offender, but this will now change.
The move equates to a rise from 4.9% of officers to 11%. The decision followed consultation with officers, local police area commanders and the Police Federation.
Assistant chief constable John Campbell, who is responsible for tactical support, said: "Over the past three years we have seen a rise in the number of incidents firearms officers with Tasers attend to provide support to unarmed colleagues.
"These are incidents where officers are faced with someone who is threatening violence or has the potential to cause significant harm to officers or members of the public, on many occasions the offender will be believed to be carrying weapons.
"Over the same three-year period we have also experienced a rise in the number of assaults on officers and staff.
"This move will provide further protection to the communities and officers across Thames Valley.
Chief constable Sara Thornton said: "Officers will be specially selected and trained for this role and I am satisfied that the continued use of the Taser device across the force area will only be considered in those cases where it is necessary and proportionate to the behaviour the officers encounter.'' The force first issued Tasers to officers in 2004.
Over the past three years the total number of Taser deployments has increased from 795 in 2010, to 842 in 2011 and 936 in 2012. However, the number of instances where the devices were actually discharged is low at around 2% of deployments.
Mr Campbell added that the decision would also bring Thames Valley Police in line with the majority of other forces across the country.
He said: "Until this decision was taken, Thames Valley Police was one of five forces in England and Wales that only permitted firearms officers to carry Tasers.''