Chief constables are considering for the first time whether every frontline officer should be armed with a Taser.
They fear soaring street violence and no end in sight to the threat of further terrorist strikes means officers need a stun gun to protect themselves.
One leader called for a ‘national discussion’ on whether the US-made weapons should be standard issue alongside handcuffs, a metal baton and CS spray.
Campaigners are calling for all frontline police officers in Britain to be armed with Tasers in a bid to protect the streets from rising crime
Lucy D’Orsi, who is responsible for Taser use nationwide, said it is a ‘vital option for the future’, adding ‘we need to start having a debate.’
She is supported by the Police Federation which has been campaigning for years to make the weapons more widely available.
But critics warned forces risk a ‘seismic shift’ in the nature of British policing that could lower standards and put lives in danger.
And senior advisors are concerned any move could backfire if officers are barred from patrolling if they fail to meet exacting Taser training standards.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner D’Orsi, of the Metropolitan Police, said the discussion should take place ‘in the next five years.’
She said: ‘It is a question, nothing more, should this be something we consider in the future? And if it is, what are all the things we need to consider?
‘I do not want this to be seen as a back door way of arming the police service. Taser should be an option for people, but it is the last option and it is there to save lives.
A police sergeant in the West Midlands tests out the new X2 two-shot Tasers, which were introduced in August to replace the previous X26 model
‘I don’t know what the answer is but I want us to have a debate and that debate will take a long time as there are a lot of factors to it.’
She added: ‘It must be a sensible, constructive and thoughtful debate. My initial thoughts are this is a really vital option for the future.’
Her comments signal the latest shift towards the wider roll-out of Tasers just months after a new X2 two-shot version was approved.
The state-of-the-art weapon carries two cartridges giving officers a back-up shot, or even the opportunity to take down two suspects, if necessary.
Police chiefs will be able to hand Tasers to probationary officers – those with fewer than two years’ experience – in the New Year.
And they are also discussing whether volunteer special constables should also be allowed as they face the same dangers as paid colleagues.
Tasers are a type of electroshock weapon which fire two small dart-like electrodes that disrupt the voluntary control of muscles to cause neuromuscular incapacitation
Speaking to an audience of Taser specialists from around the world, Mrs D’Orsi said Taser has a ‘firm place in the future of policing.’
But she warned that rolling out the weapon to tens of thousands more officers would inevitably come at ‘significant cost’.
Asked about arming rookie officers, she said it is ‘bizarre’ some officers are prevented from using Taser because of a ‘point in time’.
‘We want to move from a time-based criteria to a competency-based selection,’ she said. ‘We hope to see this employed across the country in the New Year.’
Earlier this year the Metropolitan Police announced it will equip a further 1,867 officers to use Taser, meaning one in five officers have the weapon.
The Police Federation has urged the Home Secretary to make cash available to allow other forces to follow suit.
One survey found an overwhelming majority of officers (82%) support issuing Taser to all those on the frontline.
The Metropolitan Police announced earlier this year that it will equip an additional 1,867 officers with Tasers, increasing the number of officers carrying the weapon to one in five
But campaigners are concerned that it may be necessary to lower standards if the weapons are to be carried by all officers.
They fear that officers may rush to use Tasers to tackle suspects before exhausting every other option to resolve confrontations without violence.
Oliver Feeley-Sprague, of Amnesty International, said arming all officers with Taser risks changing the face of British policing.
He said: ‘It would represent a seismic shift towards arming the police and would inevitably lead to an increase in the misuse Tasers, with potentially fatal consequences.
‘As a specialist tool, used by specialist officers, it can help save lives and resolve life threatening situations more safely.
‘But it also a weapon that can kill and clearly does inflict extreme pain when used inappropriately by poorly trained officers.
‘By re-classifying it as an officer safety device, it would become mandatory for all police officers to carry one and it would be impossible to restrict its use to life threatening incidents.’