Metropolitan Police plans to publish data about Taser use by its officers have been welcomed by London Assembly Members.
The force has increased the number of Taser trained officers to allow two vehicles equipped with the weapons to patrol 24-hours a day in each of the 32 boroughs it polices.
Some politicians and community leaders have expressed concern about Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe’s decision to increase the number of Tasers.
The Metropolitan Police Authority, the body oversaw the Met before its abolition in 2012, had recommended that use of the weapon be restricted to specialist firearms officers and Territorial Support Group officers.
The Commissioner clashed with MPA members after using a radio appearance to suggest that “every police car” be equipped with the stun guns.
In January 2012 the MPA was abolished and its responsibilities split between a new Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), which provides strategic direction and funding to the Met, and the Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee which scrutinises the Met and MOPAC.
Following the change in oversight arrangements, Sir Bernard announced plans to train 40 officers per borough to use the weapons, although only a maximum of four officers will be carrying the weapons at any one time per borough.
Police and Crime Committee Chair Joanne McCartney AM has warned the increased deployment “may have significant implications for the relationship between our traditionally unarmed police service and the public they are here to protect.”
Speaking to this site in March, Sir Bernard said there was no intention to routinely arm the police or to go beyond the new enlarged deployment levels.
Explaining the reasons behind the greater roll-out, he said in some instances it was taking “45 minutes” for Taser trained officers to reach incidents, a delay which could endanger both officers and members of the public.
Appearing before the committee on Thursday, Sir Bernard cited an incident in Harrow where four officers were “very badly hurt” but had to wait 40 minutes for Taser-equipped colleagues to arrive and assist them.
Assembly Member Jennette Arnold expressed concerns about the level of consultation with local communities, and called on the Met to help Londoners have “greater understanding” about the weapons and their use.
Addressing those concerns, Deputy Met Commissioner Craig Mackey said the force was working to create a new public website “to show all Taser usage” by officers.
Sir Bernard also said the force would be carrying out a six month review to assess the impact of the increased deployment to ensure the weapons were “being used properly”.
Commenting after the meeting Ms Arnold said: “I welcome the Deputy Commissioner’s commitment to transparency with regards to the use of tasers in the Metropolitan Police.
“This information will be essential for monitoring the use of these weapons in our boroughs so Londoners can be sure that tasers are only used in the most appropriate circumstances. It will also enable Londoners to question any deployment that seems suspect. This kind of transparency is what underpins the British model of policing by consent.”
Fellow committee member Jenny Jones AM added: “Transparency around the Met’s use of their Tasers is vital if Londoners are to trust that their use is valid.
“The public need to understand how the Met’s using this weapon, so I welcome the commitment from the Deputy Commissioner to publish all Taser usage on a Met website.”