The Liberal Democrats nationally are calling for: “an in-depth inquiry into the use of TASERs before they become commonplace on British streets”. The call was made by Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Chris Huhne in a statement he made following the release of figures on TASER use against under-eighteens in the UK in response to a parliamentary question he had put down.
However where Liberal Democrats are in positions of power and influence they are not using that to challenge the proposed deployment of TASERs to all response police in the UK. I have been lobbying Kevin Wilkins, a Cambridge Liberal Democrat and member of Cambridgeshire Police Authority asking him to ensure the authority discuss the proposed expanded TASER deployment. I got Mr Wilkins to make a public commitment to try and raise the item at the December Authority meeting but he did not, and it still wasn’t on the agenda for the February meeting. Mr Wilkins has written to me justifying his inaction by saying that he believes passing a motion at the police authority will achieve very little.
Within hours of the November 2008 ministerial announcement on the extended deployment the Metropolitan Police Authority decided not to extend TASER use to all front line response officers in London on the grounds that they may cause fear and damage public confidence. It is now three months since this announcement and Cambridgeshire Police Authority are yet to react.
I will be writing to Mr Wilkins drawing his attention to what Mr Huhne is calling for; and suggesting to Mr Huhne that he gets in touch with Liberal Democrat members of Police Authorities and encourages them to oppose the deployment there. This will be futile as Liberal Democrats do not have consistent views on policing (or as far as I can tell anything else from transport to budgets). Cambridge Liberal Democrat County Councillor Julian Huppert has stated “We have no democratic control over the police in the UK” he appears to believe that is an acceptable state of affairs and uses it to justify his disinterested attitude with respect to policing which he shares with many of his Cambridge party colleagues.
I support firearms officers having TASERs as an alternative to guns, but do not want to see the police routinely armed with TASERs. I believe any expansion of TASER use would be damaging to the relationship between the public and the police.