POLICE in Essex are nowusing stun guns nearly three times a week – and their use is increasing.

Figures released by the Home Office show the weapons were used 152 times last year, compared to just 34 in 2011.

The force put the increase down to there being a greater number of officers trained in their use.

A spokesman said: “The increase in deployment of Tasers is due to there being more officers trained in carriage and deployment of Tasers.”

Essex Police rolled out the weapons, which can produce a shock of up to 50,000 volts, to regular officers on patrol for the first time in January 2013. Before then, only certain units had access.

There are now 200 officers across the county trained to use the devices.

Michael Hoy, Hullbridge councillor and deputy leader of the Green Party group on Essex County Council, said: “It does concernme.

If police were able to deal satisfactorily with incidents before, why are Tasers being used more and in what circumstances?”

In 2012, there were 100 uses of the weapons. The Home Office states they should only be used in situations where officers “are facing violence or threats of violence of such severity they would need to use force to protect the public, themselves or the subject.”

In the early hours of January 12 this year, Richard Ward, 39, of Fenners Way, Basildon, was Tasered after lunging at two police officers with a knife in Cricketers Way in the town.

He was arrested and later given a suspended 10-month prison sentence at Basildon Crown Court after admitting threats.

But their use elsewhere has been more controversial.

A police officer in Lancashire was told last month to apologise to a blind man who was Tasered after his stick was mistaken for a samurai sword, in an incident in 2012.