Police Federation: give stun guns to protect NI officers from attack

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All frontline officers in Northern Ireland should receive Taser stun guns following an "unacceptably high" number of assaults, the Police Federation has said.

The non-lethal but temporarily debilitating shock would provide added protection against would-be attackers, the representative organisation added.

Hundreds of PSNI members have been spat at, bitten, punched and kicked.

Recently officers were attacked during bonfire-related unrest onn the New Lodge estate in Belfast.

Currently Tasers are only issued to specialist and authorised firearms officers.

Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) chairman Mark Lindsay said: "The majority of our officers currently have no less lethal option between a baton and a firearm and we would like to see that changed.

"The option of a Taser issued across the service would be welcome."

Northamptonshire Police Chief Constable Nick Adderley recently vowed to introduce Tasers for all frontline officers following "sickening" attacks.

Mr Lindsay added: "We have an unacceptably high number of assaults on our officers and the use of Taser would be a useful resource to have at their immediate disposal.

"The decision in Northamptonshire is a direct result of assaults on officers. The problem is no less severe here."

Explaining his decision to pull police out of the New Lodge, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said he did not want to ramp up use of force like plastic bullets and sacrifice public safety to save the organisation's face.

The Detail investigative website asked the PSNI about assaults in Northern Ireland in a Freedom of Information (FoI) request.

From 2013/14 to 2017/18 more than 14,000 assaults on officers were recorded - an average of 2,832 per year.

Newry, with the 11th highest population, had the fourth highest number of attacks, while Enniskillen, with the 19th highest number of residents, was fifth.

More than a quarter of the 14,000 assaults led to officers sustaining injuries. On 63 occasions they were seriously hurt.

Arm fractures, liver tears, extensive facial bruising, lung damage, a head split with a bottle, and a wide range of abrasions were among the injuries inflicted.

Officers were spat at 660 times, bitten in 347 incidents, punched 131 times and kicked on 479 occasion, the figures showed.

In the kicking incidents, 54 involved the groin.

In a separate FoI, the PSNI told the BBC that, in 2017/18, assaults overall stood at 2,664, an increase of 152 on the previous year.