Most officers in West Yorkshire believe police in the county ought to remain largely unarmed, a survey published today has suggested.
The survey, carried out in July, saw 1,566 West Yorkshire officers and 5,961 members of the public, all but 721 of whom are from the county, respond with views about the potential arming of the police service.
The overwhelming majority of those surveyed by the Police Federation think Taser electro-shock weapons ought to be issued to front-line officers employed by the region’s largest force.
Of the West Yorkshire police officers who responded, 65 per cent wanted to remain largely unarmed, but only 34 per cent of the public had the same opinion.
The force currently employs around 4,500 officers, fewer than 200 of whom are trained to handle and use firearms.
According to the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, 90 per cent of West Yorkshire Police officers surveyed feel all front-line colleagues should be issued with Taser whilst on patrol.
Eight-six per cent of the members of the public in West Yorkshire backed the same idea of increasing the number of Taser-trained officers beyond the current total of around 400.
It is the latest development in the national debate about whether police should be given extra ways of protecting themselves and the public following the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London.
Nick Smart, Chairman of West Yorkshire Police Federation, said the results would help shape future discussions with senior management. He said: “Given the recent terrorist attacks in London and Manchester and the changing nature of threats faced by police officers nationally this was an important survey and has provided some clear results.
“It is apparent that an overwhelming majority of police officers and the public we serve believe police officers should be routinely carrying a Taser when on patrol.
“And that – while many officers do not want to be routinely armed – there is a distinct desire need to increase the number of armed colleagues available.”
In response, Assistant Chief Constable Andy Battle said: “We welcome the findings of this survey and will be discussing the results with the West Yorkshire Police Federation to find the best way of addressing this issue.
“Routinely equipping officers with Tasers is not something that is taken lightly, and we must ensure that those who are given these means are properly trained to use them and only when absolutely necessary.
“Officers are accountable for ensuring that their use of force is proportionate to the situation and only applied when necessary, but we also recognise that assaults on police officers are increasing and it is important that we take positive action to reduce the number of attacks.
“One assault on a police officer is one too many and if more officers carrying a Taser is likely to deter an attack then it is something that must be considered.”
It emerged earlier this month that West Yorkshire officers resolve more than three-quarters of the incidents they deal with through talking or the use of handcuffs.
‘Use of force’ figures, released by West Yorkshire Police, show that in 75 per cent of the instances where force was required between April 1 and June 30, ‘tactical communication’ or handcuffs were deployed.