Concern has been expressed after official figures revealed a fourfold increase in the number of times Met Police officers drew their Tasers.
According to a Freedom of Information response published on the Met’s website, officers drew the weapon 713 times in 2012 compared to 378 times in 2011.
Scotland Yard has subsequently provided figures to this site showing that between 1st January and 8th November 2013 officers drew their weapons on 1,746 occasions – a more than fourfold increase on the 2011 figure.
The weapons were previously only carried by firearms officers, however Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe extended their availability citing concerns that unarmed officers were waiting too long for back-up.
As a result of the expansion there are now two Taser equipped vehicles patrolling 24-hours a day in each of the 32 boroughs the Met polices.
Assembly Members from all parties have previously expressed concern that the weapons could be used as a “compliance tool” to ensure suspects and detainees obey officer requests out of fear of being fired on.
The Met’s figures appear to vindicate these concerns, showing a widening gap between the number of occasions on which a Taser was drawn and the number of times on which they’re fired.
Of the 378 occasions on which a Taser was drawn from the holster in 2011, Scotland Yard says it was fired on just 112. In 2012, the year in which the expansion began, officers drew the weapons on 713 occasions and fired them on 136 occasions.
The most dramatic gap between drawn and firing came in 2013 when, of the 1,746 draws between January and 8th November 2013, the weapon was fired on just 212 occasions.
This means that while the number of occasions Tasers were fired has scarcely doubled since 2011, the number of times they’re drawn has more than quadrupled.
Green party peer and Assembly Member Baroness Jenny Jones has called on Mayor Boris Johnson to “challenge the Commissioner” over the figures.
She added: “The argument for the Taser roll out was that it would prevent many injuries to officers, but given such a large rise I worry that they might be using Tasers when they would normally defuse situations by more peaceful means.
“The dramatic increase in the number of times officers are drawing this weapon but not firing it, makes me worry it is being used too readily to force people to comply or face being Tasered.
“My fear has always been that the more Tasers we have on our streets the more chances there are of mistakes being made, making people less safe.”