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By Hugh Boag
Police officers on Arran have been issued with TASER devices for the first time, which will be carried while on patrol.
It follows the recent announcement by Police Scotland of a four-fold increase in officers trained in TASER use in response to a rising number of assaults on frontline staff.
Special Trained Officers (STO) numbers will increase from about 500 to 2,000 over the next three years.
Last year saw a 6.3 per cent increase in the number of assaults, with 6,942 attacks recorded on officers and staff.
More than 1,000 assaults on police in 2020/21 involved spitting or coughing or were otherwise linked to Covid.
TASER weapons were first introduced by Police Scotland in 2018 and are now being rolled out nationwide.
A TASER was carried by STO trained PC Joanna Graham on patrol on Arran this week after the island took delivery of two devices.
The other officers will be trained in their use in the coming weeks after which they will regularly be deployed.
Arran sergeant Kevin Blackley said: ‘Those of us lucky enough to call Arran home know it is a beautiful place to live.
‘However, no community in Scotland is immune to violent incidents and officers equipped with TASER devices help to keep the public safe in all areas, urban, rural and island communities.
‘Specially Trained Officers – officers trained to carry TASER devices – have deployed in our communities across Scotland since June 2018.
‘It should be stressed that equipping more officers with tasers is not a move towards the routine arming of police officers in Scotland.
‘Increasing the number of TASER-trained officers is the right thing to do as we look to better protect the public as well as our officers and staff.
‘TASER devices have protected the public and decrease the risk of injury when used. Keeping people safe remains a core priority for Police Scotland.
‘The increase in the number of Specially Trained Officers follows a review which highlighted that officers are increasingly being called to incidents of violence.
‘It also highlighted that assaults on officers and staff have continued to increase.
‘I would like to reassure the local community in Arran that officers will only use the device when there is no other choice.
‘De-escalating situations and keeping people safe is our priority and officers will use the minimum level of force necessary.
‘Everyone can be assured that STOs receive thorough training which focuses on de-escalation and public safety.
‘The training for officers includes awareness of disabilities which may present as aggression or those who have communication barriers.’
According to Police Scotland: ‘TASER devices reduce injury rates during violent confrontations – when compared to incidents where it is not deployed – because it allows officers to maintain a safer distance from a person and decreases the risk of injury. It also prevents escalation and enables a safer and quicker resolution.’
TASER is an acronym and a trademark of the US based manufacturer Axon Enterprises Inc.