Kent Police arms volunteer officers with Taser stun guns to ‘protect the public’

  • Watch: Full report on the volunteer officers among the first in the country to carry Tasers

Volunteer police officers in Kent are being armed with Taser stun guns for the first time, following a change in the law.

Chief Constable Alan Pughsley says he took the decision to give special constables “the same operational tools to protect themselves and the public”.

It comes as ITV News Meridian can reveal that 1 in 4 regular officers in Kent are now trained to carry the electroshock weapon.

Figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request show that 1,016 officers in the county are currently Taser-trained, up from 175 in 2012 – an increase of 481 per cent. 

All frontline Kent officers – paid ‘regulars’ and volunteer ‘specials’ – can now request to carry the equipment.

Officers have to undergo checks and training before being allowed to carry a conducted energy weapon.

Special Inspector Scott Dawson is amongst the first group of six volunteer officers to be trained to use the electroshock weapon.

He told ITV News Meridian that carrying a Taser had provided him with “further reassurance”, especially when attending incidents involving “knives and other weapons”.

“I’ve been a special for the last seven years. We’re out there with our regular counterparts, facing the same sort of threat, risk and harm as them. 

“Taser is a form of equipment that can further keep ourselves and members of the public safe.”

  • Watch: Scott Dawson, a volunteer officer trained to carry a Taser

Kent Police’s outgoing chief constable, Alan Pughesley, told ITV News Meridian: “Special constables in Kent do everything that my frontline regular officers do.

"So, they should be afforded the same operational tools to protect themselves and, in turn, the public. 

“It’s the same training, it’s the same rigour, it’s the same scrutiny.

"They are as equipped and professional to use Tasers as my regular officers are.”

Mr Pughesley added: “I think if you go back to the basics of what the public want from the police, they want us to keep them safe, they want us to be on the streets, they want us to be visible and they want us to deal with very violent offenders.”

  • Watch: Kent Chief Constable Alan Pughesley discusses the extended Taser rollout

A Sussex Police spokesperson said changes to special constables personal protective equipment was “currently under review”.

The number of Taser-trained officers in Sussex has risen from 14 in 2012 to 613 in 2021. That means 1 in 5 are now permitted to carry the weapon on duty. 

Dr David Lydon, a senior lecturer in policing at Canterbury Christ Church University, described the rollout of stun guns to volunteers as a “natural evolution” particularly given the “push to use special constables for frontline policing activity”. 

“You’d expect that they’d have the tools to do the job, as long as they've been given the training. And of course, it is the same training as regular officers get.”

Dr Lydon added that Taser use in this country is “an under-researched area”, with “a lot of work to be done.”

An officer fires a Taser during a training exercise at Kent Police College in Maidstone.

Tasers were first introduced in the UK in 2003, with police forces initially only issuing them to authorised firearms officers. 

Last year, Kent Police announced that 1,000 extra officers would get the equipment in one of the biggest rollouts in England.

In May, former Home Secretary Priti Patel authorised special constables to carry the equipment following the passing of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. 

The legislation also allowed them to join the Police Federation for the first time and benefit from the organisation’s legal protection.

Earlier this year, British Transport Police became the first force in the UK to issue Tasers to its special constables. 

Last year, the Independent Office for Police Conduct called for “improved national guidance, training and scrutiny” to give the public reassurance that Tasers were “only being used when absolutely necessary”.