THE body representing rank-and-file police officers has called for tasers to be kept in every patrol car following a spate of recent attacks.
The Scottish Police Federation said the level of assaults on officers was “far too high” and urged the force to consider the “wider deployment of tasers” in a bid to protect staff.
An attack on a police officer is an attack on societySPF president Brian Docherty
Their comments come after a policewoman was knocked unconscious and rushed to hospital after being attacked by a man she was trying to arrest in the early hours of Friday morning.
The 30-year-old officer was left with bruising, concussion and memory loss following the assault at Whyte Place in Meadowbank, Edinburgh.
Brian Docherty, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation, said around one in every three officers faced being attacked on the job – averaging out at about 5,500 incidents every year.
He said: “The levels of assaults on police officers are far too high. Too often charges of assaulting the police are dropped or plea bargained away. The sentences passed are clearly not acting as a deterrent.
“Beyond that, we have to ensure that self-protection training and equipment are good quality and kept up to date. Over the years we have introduced improved handcuffs, batons and CS spray.
“Beyond that we would like to see the wider deployment of tasers so that they are kept in every operational police vehicle.
“The principal aim of the police is to protect the public. An attack on a police officer is an attack on society. To ensure the police can protect the public, the courts and other authorities need to protect the police.”
It is understood only trained firearms officers are currently allowed to carry tasers, with Mr Docherty insisting they made up a “minuscule” proportion of the entire force – numbering as low as just a few hundred. Recent statistics show the Edinburgh City division of Police Scotland alone has access to 3,578 available police officers – with 1,163 of these deployed locally.
Friday morning’s assault comes just weeks after two police officers were punched and kicked by a group of 15 youths outside the Capital’s Portobello police station – with a middle-aged passer-by even joining the attack. And last year an armed policeman was stabbed four times in a frenzied attack on The Mound, with frantic officers only able to subdue the knife-wielding man by using a taser.
Former Lib Dem MP Mike Crockart, who served as a police officer in Edinburgh for eight years, said he had “sympathy” for the position taken by the Police Federation – but insisted there needed to be a wider public debate before any steps were taken to roll out tasers.
He said: “There is a gap in the non-lethal force [available to officers] – you go from a side baton to armed police officers.
“We need to have something that is non-lethal but is more effective in different situations than a baton. Whether that should be a taser or a pepper spray or something like that is up for debate.”
Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said criminals needed to know they would face “the full force of the law”.
Police Scotland’s Chief Superintendent Elaine Ferguson said the roll out of tasers was “not something Police Scotland is considering at the moment”. She said: “Taser conducted energy devices are presently issued to trained authorised firearms officers within Police Scotland and there are no plans to expand at this time.”