Scores of police officers without firearms training will be allowed to use 50,000 volt Tasers after Sussex Police relaxed the rules governing which officers could use the devices.

Up to 160 officers will be able to carry the electroshock weapons once they have completed just four days of training with the first officers taking up the devices from next week.

Sussex Police have said the move would improve response times and reduce the workload of armed officers.

The move, which was first announced last year, will see number of Taser-trained officers triple – so far only firearms officers can carry the distinctive yellow Taser.

Until the announcement, Sussex Police was one of a small number of forces which had restricted the use of Tasers to authorised firearm officers only.

Taser-trained officers will be available 24/7 from October after all officers have completed training.

The force said they had hoped to have all officers trained up earlier but plans were delayed by Olympics.

Chief Superintendent Paul Morrison of Sussex Police's Operations Department said the force would not take “a big bang” approach to Taser training all officers and said that he did not envisage training going beyond officers in response teams.

Taser use

In the past year, officers have used Tasers 29 times although only eight times compared to 760 uses of captor pepper spray and 150 uses of batons.

Officers were authorised to use their Tasers 188 times although often merely drawing the Taser is enough to encourage a suspect to cooperate.

Of the eight occasions, Tasers were used against three people with mental health problems.

No new Tasers will be bought for the newly-trained staff but it will cost the force annually about £25,000 to buy batteries, cartridges and laptops to analyse laser data.

Following four days of training, officers have to pass a capability test.

Seven in ten officers passed first time with the rest taking a second and final compatibility test.

Of the 60 officers trained so far, two have failed both tests A review of Taser training will be carried out in September.

Violent situations

Mr Morrison said: "Experience shows that simply the presence of Taser acts as a deterrent to the escalation of violence.

“Studies have also showed that the presence of Taser reduces the levels of force required by officers in violent situations avoiding, for example, the use of a baton or captor.

"The majority of people will not see any change in day-to-day policing.

“Patrols by officers and PCSOs will continue as normal, however in the event of a violent situation they may now request Taser support by colleagues locally, rather than from firearms officers who are based at central locations.”

"Authority to use Taser will still have to be granted by senior officers, as has always been the case, and it is not the first option.

'Black box' storage

"Officers have a range of skills and tactics they can choose from and the most appropriate option for the circumstances will be used.

"The decision to roll out Tasers to non-firearms officers is not an indication that the threat of violence has increased in Sussex but a way of enabling us to deploy Taser trained officers more quickly to situations where they are needed to protect the public.

"An equivalent of a 'black box' is stored within the Taser so that each deployment can be monitored and processes are in place to make sure this is done lawfully and in accordance with training.

"All the officers who will be authorised to carry Taser undertake an intense week-long training course. The course includes theory alongside practical exercises and examines their decision making processes in pressured situations.

"To be qualified to carry Taser an officer must pass this course, which includes a number of assessments".

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