POLICE crews at Warrnambool, Hamilton and Portland will be issued with tasers under a $13.5 million state government package to improve community safety.
The electronic weapons will be carried by officers on two-person duties, highway patrols, special operations groups and critical incident response teams.
Special training sessions will be undertaken before the devices are deployed.
Police and Emergency Services Minister Kim Wells announced 580 new tasers would be rolled out to 29 regional 24-hour police stations following successful trials in six centres.
“This is a major investment in community safety for rural and regional Victoria and part of the Coalition government’s commitment to building a safer Victoria,” Mr Wells said.
“Police are often called to respond to violent and dangerous situations involving people who are affected by drugs or alcohol, or who are otherwise at risk of causing harm to police, the community and themselves.
“This announcement will provide regional police officers with modern equipment, and an alternative option to firearms, helping them to manage these complex situations and to minimise the risk of serious injury and fatalities.”
Premier and South West Coast MP Denis Napthine said it was great news for the Warrnambool region.
“Our government is providing our local police with the resources they need to continue making our community a safer place,” Dr Napthine.
Mr Wells said the use of tasers had so far been restricted to specialist units and selected trial regional centres, but there was a clear need for police on general duties to have their own access.
Use of tasers was subject to strict controls including a review of all incidents where the device was used, he said.
Tasers were first trialled in Bendigo and Morwell in 2010, then extended to Traralgon and Moe in 2012 and Geelong and Ballarat in 2013.
The weapons use electrical current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles causing what is known as “neuromuscular incapacitation”.