Should more West Yorkshire police officers be armed?
The public in West Yorkshire are to be asked whether police in the county should be routinely armed with guns and Taser electric stun weapons.
The local Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, has launched a survey on the issue alongside an internal poll of its members.
In the first survey of its kind since the spate of terror attacks in London and Manchester earlier this year, officers are being asked if they would be willing to carry a sidearm or a Taser while on duty.
The results will be passed onto the West Yorkshire Police command team and the national policing authorities to consider whether there ought to be a change in policy.
Questions in the survey include whether the routine arming of police officers will fundamentally change how policing is delivered.
Respondents will also be asked if officers should deploy Taser when officers are going out by themselves, whether they would personally be prepared to carry and use Taser and whether officers think carrying Taser would keep them and the public safer.
Nick Smart, chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation, said: “Given the recent tragic events in London and Manchester and the changing nature of threats faced by police officers nationally, we are seeking the views of West Yorkshire Police officers on the issues of routine arming of officers and the routine carrying of Tasers by officers.
“This is an opportunity for police officers to feed back their views and have their voice heard. It will also allow us as a Federation to make effective representation with key stakeholders moving forwards, such as our Command Team, Police and Crime Commissioner and local MPs.”
He added that it was “only right and appropriate that we survey the public of West Yorkshire to get their view” on whether the force’s total of authorised firearms officers, currently around 200, and those trained to use Taser, currently around 400, should increase.
He said: “We’ve always policed upon the principle of consent and engagement and we feel that it’s right that we consult the public about these two important issues. Ultimately, it’s the question of, ‘what do the public want the police to do and how best to protect them?’”
Currently, only those with two years’ experience are allowed to carry Taser. But it was reported this weekend that senior officers nationwide are urgently reconsidering the restriction.
Last week, Greater Manchester Police announced plans to double the number of officers trained in the use of Tasers to 1,100. Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said the decision was “necessary” in the wake of the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London.
In April, The Yorkshire Post revealed that the number of trained firearms officers by West Yorkshire Police had increased as a result of a review carried out after the Charlie Hebdo attack in France.
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Assistant Chief Constable Andy Battle of West Yorkshire Police said: “The British policing model remains that we are primarily an unarmed service.
“We have Taser and firearms capabilities which are deployed in support of our unarmed colleagues and which are regularly reviewed to make sure they are in line with operational requirements to help us keep the public safe.
“Nevertheless we will await the results of the Police Federation’s survey and welcome the opportunity to discuss the matter with them in the coming days.”