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  1. ITV Report

More police to carry stun guns

Stun gun Photo: ITV News Anglia

Thames Valley Police is giving more of its officers stun guns which it said would help protect both them and the public.

From this week, police patrolling in Milton Keynes and nearby will be allowed to carry Tasers - if they have had appropriate training.

Until now only the force's firearms officers have been armed with them.

Supt Barry Halliday, head of local policing, said each officer must think very carefully before using one.

"It's not just about the ability to press the button," he said. "This is about making sure that their thought process, their assessment of the situation ... is proportionate and indeed necessary."

But human rights campaign group Amnesty International is concerned about the increased use of stun guns.Oliver Sprague, the organisation's Taser expert, said: "These are potentially lethal weapons which can cause excruciating pain on essentially what is a flick of a switch.

"In our research in the USA over 500 people have now died after being Tasered, so these are potentially-dangerous, potentially-lethal weapons, so we believe that they must only be used in the most extreme circumstances."

When a taser is fired it lets off 50,000 volts, leaving someone unable to fight back for at least a few seconds.

Before they are given a taser, all officers do a three-day training course.

Police in the UK have been using stun guns for a number of years.

The Northamptonshire and Thames Valley forces took part in trials in 2003.

Usage in our region has varied. The figures below show the number of times stun guns were used by each of our forces between April 2004 and March 2010:

Cambridgeshire, 204; Hertfordshire, 193; Bedfordshire, 134; Norfolk, 126; Essex, 111; Northamptonshire, 103; Suffolk, 87.

Click below to see Olivia Paterson's report.