The majority of Yorkshire’s police officers could soon be armed with Tasers under plans announced by Priti Patel as she outlined proposals aimed at making the Tories appear tough on crime.
The Home Secretary made a wide-ranging speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester yesterday, touching on crime, immigration, and drugs.
But Ms Patel said law and order was “central to our DNA as Conservatives”, Ms Patel pledged a £10 million ringfenced fund to equip up to 60 per cent of police officers with Tasers.
It is the job of chief constables to make that operational decision,” she told the conference.
It is the job of the Home Secretary to empower them to do so. I am giving them that power.”
The Yorkshire Post revealed on Saturday how officers across Yorkshire are frequently having to use Tasers due to an increase in violent attacks and hostile situations.
A Freedom of Information request revealed the frontline officers in the county’s largest force, West Yorkshire Police, used a Taser on 749 occasions during 2018, although in the majority of cases they were not deployed.
In the same year, the force also saw a record number of assaults on officers with 1,897 incidents recorded by the Home Office.
West Yorkshire Police Federation Chairman Brian Booth describes Tasers an “extremely effective tool” and has previously called for all frontline officers to be issued with them.
Ms Patel also committed funding to tackle county lines gangs that exploit children and other vulnerable people.
Earlier this year Dr Mohammed Qasim, a criminologist at Leeds Beckett University who studies ethnic minority gangs and drug dealers, said that research has indicated growing numbers of young men are setting up drug dealing networks in wealthy Yorkshire towns, particularly Harrogate.
Ms Patel said: “The kingpins of these criminal gangs are exploiting children.
“Forcing them to carry crack cocaine and heroin across rural and coastal communities, threatening them into carrying guns and knives as ‘protection’, manipulating them into killing innocent people.”
A dedicated British Transport Police unit with visible and undercover officers will be tasked with disrupting the movement of drugs and people in gangs.
Victims of gangs will receive greater support with the number of specialist caseworkers being expanded, and the national county lines co-ordination centre will also grow.
Ms Patel also pledged a £25 million “safer streets fund” for new security measures to tackle Britain’s “worst crime spots”.
Funding would be made available to Police and Crime Commissioners to invest in preventative measures to tackle burglaries, thefts and shoplifting.
Ms Patel also reiterated a plan to recruit 20,000 new police officers and to introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system after Brexit.
She said her role as Home Secretary at this “defining moment” has a particular brief when it “comes to taking back control”.
“It is to end the free movement of people once and for all,” Ms Patel said.