August 22nd, 2009

Arm, arm ye brave

Posted in The Job - Comment by 200

One of the perennial questions for the police is the question of arming officers.

The Police Federation told me, throughout my career, that I didn’t want to be armed. This was despite the fact that they never actually asked me. I think the surveys they did must have been handed out round the bar on one of the Federation’s annual jollies, otherwise known as the conference, ‘cos I think I only ever saw one in 30 years.

We often hear comments that gun crime is out of control. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but I do know that since possession of handguns was banned – in the wake of the Dunblane Massacre, the only people who can’t get hold of guns are people who enjoyed shooting holes in cardboard targets down their local shooting club. I’ve lost count of the number of BBC reporters who can get hold of a gun before their programme finishes.

One of the biggest problems in relation to the low amount of firearms officers is that when a job comes in requiring an armed response, unless you are from a major metropolitan force, your nearest firearms unit may be the other side of the county & with the best will in the world & a following wind might be half an hour away. And that’s providing there isn’t more than one  ‘firearms’ incidents at the same time.

The issue of Taser to non-firearms officers does help to a degree, so if someone was reported as armed with a knife then you could send Taser officers – if you’re lucky enough to have a couple on your shift. But to jobs when someone is reported to have a gun, or worse, used a gun, a firearms unit is the only option.

We have the situation now that on the report of someone being shot, no unarmed officers are sent straight to the scene. This is because health & safety dictates that an officer unable to protect himself or others against the effects of a small metal projectile entering his body at supersonic speeds isn’t conducive to a healthy lifestyle. So they have to wait round the corner with the ambulance crew while someone bleeds to death.

The answer, you might think, would be simples; just arm more officers, but the people who might allow this don’t like the idea of lots of coppers running round with guns; it doesn’t look good.

People throw their arms in the air, you can’t possibly arm the police, not unless you want them putting bullet holes in grannies, babies & their own big toes. Some firearms officers subscribe to this theory saying they are so highly trained it simply would not be possible to train everyone up to that level. This is despite the fact that seemingly every other country in the entire world seems to train all it’s officers in the safe use of firearms without filling their local morgues with evidence of their incompetence.

There are less trained firearms officers now than there ever have been. When I joined the job, and for some considerable  time, if any job requiring a firearm came up, suitably trained officers could return to the nick, collect a gun & go & deal with the original job.

In the first quarter of the twentieth century, officers could go back to their nick, select a firearm & take it out on patrol – provided it was a nightshift.

We’ve advanced to having fewer albeit highly-trained officers with other officers sitting round the corner while the victim risks bleeding to death.

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