Tasers could spark ‘arms race’ between police and criminals in Camden

Cllr Abdul Hai. Picture: Polly Hancock

Cllr Abdul Hai. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Polly Hancock

The use of Tasers could spark an “arms race” between police and criminals in Camden, the council’s crime chief warned this week.

Sgt Alun Jones with a taser at Camden Town Hall. Picture: Polly Hancock

Sgt Alun Jones with a taser at Camden Town Hall. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Cllr Abdul Hai, Camden Council’s cabinet member for community safety, fears the introduction of stun guns earlier this month could backfire and end up making the borough more dangerous.

Ch Supt Ben-Julian "BJ" Harrington. Picture: Polly Hancock

Ch Supt Ben-Julian "BJ" Harrington. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

He warned crooks might adopt similar electroshock devices or even guns now that police officers are carrying the controversial weapons.

“This is almost like we’re raising the stakes,” he said. “My concern is that criminals will decide to arm themselves to counter it, almost like an arms race.

“I’m afraid that the more weapons we have on the streets, whether Tasers or guns, the risk of having innocent victims will increase significantly.”

He added: “We’re one of the few countries where officers are not necessarily carrying weapons, but I’m worried there’s this tendency of following the American path.”

Cllr Hai was speaking after the Metropolitan Police’s Taser expert Sgt Alun Jones gave a presentation to the Camden Community and Police Consultative Group (CCPCG) at Camden Town Hall on Monday.

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He also raised concerns about the three day training course that officers undergo. “I don’t know whether three days is rigid enough,” he said. “Firearms officers go through lengthy training and I don’t see how this is different.”

Camden’s new borough commander, Ch Supt Ben-Julian “BJ” Harrington, said: “There’s no evidence that criminals will arm themselves in response to the introduction of Tasers.

“The key thing is that Taser is just one of a number of options that the police service has to keep people safe. My personal opinion is that it is a lesser use of force than a baton, and more effective in bringing someone under control safely.”

The weapons, which release 50,000 volts into the body, were brought into use in Camden on May 9 and are now carried by 40 trained officers on response teams reacting to 999 calls.

Ch Supt Harrington said this means that, out of about 15 squad cars on the streets at any one time, two will have Taser-equipped officers.

During the meeting, Sgt Jones said he has carried a Taser for six years and never fired it because simply drawing the weapon is enough to defuse a situation.

He said the guns were drawn by London officers 628 times in 2012, and only fired 56 times.

He also responded to doubts over their safety, saying no deaths have been directly linked to Tasers.

Belsize Cllr Jonny Bucknell said: “I think it’s an absolute life-safer and they might even have stopped the riots.”