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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  1. copper bottom says:

    It makes me laugh- all of that ‘oooh no! cant arm the Police!!! they willbe killing everyone in sight… and ‘I dont want to be Policed by gun-toting tick coppers!’

    err… been abroad on your hols?


    well, were you shot? ‘cos the only Police in the world that dont have them are us (sorry Garda… err.. NZ?)

    It has come to the time when we need to have them… we dont ‘cos we are stuck in ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ mode- but just because we are armed- dont make us turn into ‘starsky and hutch’ mode…

    its a sad truth that, in the criminal justice world -the only peole that dont have guns… are the Police…

    An Finnish copper of my aquantance once asked :
    ‘So what pistol do you carry?’
    lol ‘yes, ok… no, really…’
    ‘no-really none…’
    ‘ahh… but you carry one anyway eh?’
    (serious look on face) ‘but really, what do you do when you are
    faced with an armed criminal?’
    lol ‘but really… if there are civilians to protect?’
    ‘run slower, giving the crim an easier target…’

    I rememer a shameful incident when a man lost the plot and took his vengeful hate out on his extended family with a shotgun… the officers (unarmed of course) arrived at the scene to be ORDERED not to go to the house until the ARV car landed some 30-mins later…

    if armed officers had confronted that man- at the first scene- a number of people would be alive to argue against arming the police…

    sadly… they paid with thier lives to satify people that do not…

    August 23rd, 2009 at 07:51

  2. Fee says:

    As a civvy who only sees armed police at the airport – well at Edinburgh airport, the Geordie cops at Newcastle must be hard enough not to need guns – I’m only qualified to say;

    If the majority of serving, frontline police officers want to be armed, then arm them.

    August 23rd, 2009 at 11:04

  3. Tom Gane says:

    I think that it is inevitable, British police will in the future be armed. Unfortunately, since the Dunblane massacre, the efforts of government to curtail the criminal use of firearms has been a failure.

    We have seen very recently unacceptable police casualties as a result of un-armed officers attending the scenes of a crime. Whether or not the officer had been armed the outcome would have been different is a matter of conjecture.

    I find it difficult to make the distinction between an 18 year soldier deployed in theatre, and a police officer responding to a highly pressured situation. Though there have been unfortunate problems with accidental shootings by forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is certainly no reports of an epidemic gun related shootings of civilians on a daily basis. Conversely, there have been reports of trained firearm officers discharging there sidearm recklessly.

    We have our own home grown gun culture prevalent in the metropolitan areas of the country. This is compounded by certain European groups who routinely carry a weapon as the preferred method of dispute resolution. We have seen the public outcry as it emerged that our troops endured poor supply of vital kit, and the loss of life resulting from the troops having to share ‘vests’ when going on patrol. Why therefore would we expect to under-equip our police service in the same manner.

    Perhaps we should have paid attention to events, related to 200′s post about police being able to arm themselves for night duty in the early part of the last century. Given the Tottenham outrage in which two anarchists were disturbed during the commission of a crime and killed 3 people, including a policeman, a young boy and an elderly gentleman. A slew of other police and bystanders suffered gun shot wounds, while attempting to stop the offenders. One police officer was seen entering the fray on a bicycle, clutching a sabre. Is this really what we need at this time. Sending someone to confront a gun with a sword?

    There will be mistakes, and the arguments will rage, as we usually look at the American model, and it’s inherent problems. The what if brigade will say it will encourage criminals to go armed? They already go armed as a matter of routine. What if the weapon is wrestled away from the officer and used against them? Good point.

    Whatever point of view you take, there will be someone there to argue for the otherside. Having travelled through Europe, I cannot say I was unduly concerned about the presence of armed police. Nor indeed was I shot to death or intimidated. The big question is how it will be implementd, including the level of training required to safely engage a fully armed service.

    PS In the film ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ which led to the series, Dixon was shot and killed by one of the charecters (? Bogard).

    August 23rd, 2009 at 11:44

  4. Tom Gane says:

    Sorry. Should read the blue lamp as the film and Dixon was shot by a charecter played by Dirk Bogard.

    August 23rd, 2009 at 11:49

  5. Tom Gane says:

    My error. The film was the blue lamp, and Dixon was shot and killed by a charecter played by Dirk Bogard.

    August 23rd, 2009 at 11:51

  6. PC Plodd says:

    It’s an age old argument, but the biggest problem is the decision lies with the bosses, and it’s pretty safe behind their desks.

    Taser is my biggest bug bear. It annoys the hell out of me that I am expected to wait for a taser car (if it’s available) if I am faced with a violent armed thug. The bosses refuse to listen to our pleas for them, despite the fact that one force (northumbria I think) gave them to all their response cops and assaults on police dropped 90%. I once watched a Superintendent on TV say that he was worried if cops with taser were losing a pub fight, they would resort to the taser to win. Now, forgive me if I am wrong, but surely that’s the whole bloody point? Are we expedcted to get hit, stabbed and beaten just so the public can pretend we are all Dixon of Dock green?

    The simple truth is we are way passed the point where we should all be carrying taser and we need to have a serious think about firearms as well.

    My final point is all this withdrawal nonsense. When people call the police who are in turn confrotned by an armed offender, do they want us to withdraw, seal off the street, evacuate them from their homes and waste hours of time, or do they want us to deal with it. I’m not advocating shooting everyone, but at the end of the day the police are the people empowered and expected to do hard, nasty things to keep people safe. Running away and risk assessing everything looks like we don’t have the will or ability to deal with these situations.

    We police the 21st century, but far too many people want us to walk around like it’s the 1950′s.

    August 23rd, 2009 at 11:52

  7. Civ_In_The_City says:

    The debate about arming has a much simpler basis. If the government allows U.K. police to be routinely armed they would be admitting that the streets cannot be policed without. Arming police would be seen as a massive government failure of all their current policing and anti-crime policies, it would demonstrate that all the ‘feeling safer, being safer’ crap is a smokescreen for our ‘sickboy of Europe’ country. Then we`d have to talk about other important issues of gross incompetence they prefer us not to.

    I think there probably IS a case to routinely arm some forces, or to arm larger elements of all forces (without them having to drive 20 miles a day to sign out a gun).

    We know from U.K. officers who joined up abroad that they are issued with a gun and are responsible for it thereafter, it`s security, cleanliness, and if necessary its use.

    The trend in this country is not to devolve power and responsibility down, but to draw it up into centralised top-down management chains. At the same time the management chain insulates itself from blame but allows any glories to reflect all the way to the top.

    All good news is down to senior management, all bad news is down to the minions at the bottom. There must be a name for such a clever filter that allows sunshine through even on cloudy days. You could use the same principle to build a device that creates solar energy 24 hours a day, even at night. The worlds energy problems solved! Hang on though, that`s completely f*cking ludicrous. It doesn`t stand up to a basic test of logic and we would need to change all the known laws of physics.

    I refer you back to my opening paragraph.

    August 23rd, 2009 at 14:44

  8. copper bottom says:

    if we had been armed- michael ryan would have been shot and killed when he bumped into the officer he then went on to shoot…

    how many more lives would have been saved?

    they wont cos it COSTS too much!!! its nothing to do with the failure etc…

    one pistol = £200… in my force, metro-place, 8000 officers- thats £1,600,000 just for the shooters… add training- and refreshers… its a couple of million – just for my force…

    cheaper to allow officers to die… and pay the widow(er) pension..

    remember – it took metro-place force YEARS AND YEARS to give us BODY ARMOUR/anti stab!!!! never mind something that could make them look bad!!!

    August 23rd, 2009 at 15:37

  9. Weary says:

    Personally, I don’t think I need to carry a firearm, which, given the fact that I’m an incredibly poor shot is probably a good thing.

    However, I find the arguments against routinely arming unimpressive. Firstly, what’s the general message it sends out. As far as I’m aware only Ireland and Iceland don’t arm their officers. The message that I think is projected is that British officers are so hopeless that they simply cannot be trusted with guns, despite having a violent crime rate that compares unfavourably to the rest of Europe. Naturally as a Brit, I’m biased, but from my experience working in Brussels in the EU, the country that the former Soviet Bloc countries wanted help from in the field of law enforcement was Britain (the other area they thought we were fab in was defence – oddly not health care or industrial development). So clearly someone thought we were semi-competent.

    Now, why shouldn’t coppers carry guns? It doesn’t fit in with our image. Well, the traditional image of a British copper is of a man in blue serge suit and no baton or handcuffs on display. Mysteriously, the Great British public have grown accustomed to the sight of a shaven headed policeman with a goatee beard dressed all in black wearing a half sleeve tattoo, body armour and tac-vest. Being one of the forces that have taser, our lot seemed to have sneeked this in without anyone’s head exploding at the sight of an officer carrying one.

    The second argument seems to be the effort it takes to train people to use them. Well, as a former Army Sgt I had the pleasure of working with, the Army manages to train to train 17 year olds in the use of firearms, including heavy machine guns, mortars and rocket launchers in a five week period, so I don’t think it’s insurmountable.

    Finally, if the cops carry them, then so will the baddies. Ignoring the obvious point that bad boys who can get firearms do carry them already, this is missing the point about why s**ts carry guns. It ain’t to engage in running gun battles with the Old Bill. It’s a) to intimidate people, b) so that these worthless oxygen thieves can convince themselves that they’re in some fashion someone to be respected and c) to protect themselves from other gun wielding scum who might rip off their ill earned gains.

    August 23rd, 2009 at 20:23

  10. Tom Gane says:

    The balanced, and well considered views stated above, in my humble view fail to address a plethora of important issues: Namely:

    1. Military police, (yes, I was one), are routinely armed, well drilled, and capable of dealing with serious f…..y as a matter of course,

    2. On the other side of ‘the wire’ civvy officer’s were bereft of any obvious defence and relied on the ‘DoDGA’ or Dixon of Dock Green approach.

    3. Routinely, I recall being armed with a Browning ‘hi-power’ 9mm. As a weapon, and with a marksmans eye, throwing the weapon at the head of a miscreant was far more accurate than actually firing because the firearm tended to ‘freeze’ on a mis-fire. In other words unless it was ‘routined’ it would Kack up.

    If you are going to do it, do it right!!!

    Much gnashing of teeth, and no more references..

    August 23rd, 2009 at 20:33

  11. Tony F says:

    Some points leap to the mind:

    The first one being; the image armed officers present on the streets. I have seen supposedly trained firearms officers seriously mishandling their weapon. I was trained well by certain ‘Rockapes’ whom if they had seen what I did, they would have easily taken one HK and rightly stuffed it up the officers arse. And he would have been powerless to prevent it.
    Also, I feel that armed officers would seem to be less approachable by the general public. Especially members of the older generations.

    More importantly, I know I have said this before, but the most important weapon the police have is their uniform….Why? Because it represents the LAW, the LAW that protects the weak, the innocent, the decent law abiding citizens. The LAW that PUNISHES criminals appropriately and suitably harshly.

    Oh sorry I forgot the law is broken.

    Taxi for one?

    August 23rd, 2009 at 20:50

  12. MarkUK says:

    As a MOP, I may have a bit of an interest in this debate.

    Would I like to see all officers armed – no! would I like to see more officers routinely armed – a resounding yes.

    These points may appear contradictory. However, there is some thought behind it.

    Unarmed officers should have armed back-up not too far away. However, there will be some officers who are simply not the type to be allowed a lethal weapon, and others who would feel that they would not wish to carry and may be temperamentally unsuitable.

    Tasers, on the other hand, should be standard isue.

    I understand that there are all too many shootings of unarmed and innocent MOPs in the USA for anyone to be comfortable with. I’m not suggesting that British officers would be as trigger happy (and such poor shots) as some of their American counterparts, but someone without a gun can’t shoot anyone, can they?

    Incidentally, I have always thought that the general ban on handguns is simply crazy. All that happens now is that the criminals still get guns and some responsible pistol shooting enthusiasts have lost their hobby.

    August 23rd, 2009 at 21:10

  13. poornamechoice says:

    For a force that covers about 5.2million people is it acceptable to only have six armed officers on ARV duty? If only the public knew eh! Of course we have a call out tac team (10PC+2PS) but even in hours you are looking at 30mins eta, out of hours your looking at 1h-1h30 easily…

    August 23rd, 2009 at 23:07

  14. MetAnon says:

    hmm, it appears I’ve arrived a bit late however i will still put my 2 penny’s worth in:
    In my opinion the issue is all due to ‘public perception’-
    How many police officers in specialist CID roles etc are there who are AFOs and if ***necessary*** can covertly carry a firearm.
    However the idea of response team officers carrying firearms is met with shock and disapproval.
    i don’t get it?

    August 23rd, 2009 at 23:42

  15. poornamechoice says:

    metanon, the only thing I can think of that the top guvnors have against non central firearms teams is that of the lack of control over them.

    Whilst I would love having divisional AFO’s (be it CID/traffic+firearms/whatever) I think they are afraid of losing control and before you know it they’ll be putting doors in on firearms jobs with just one armed officer and no authorities in place…maybe i’m wrong but to compare it again to america [albeit on shows like COPS], how often do you see house searches with just 1/2 officers, no backup nearby, no proper tactics/command/threat assesment and then they go pear shaped. At least unless it is very low risk we will usually put the tac team through the door and have a full brief in place + a Supts/ACCs head is on the chopping block should it go wrong

    August 24th, 2009 at 01:32

  16. Linda Baki says:

    Having lived abroad now for many years,maybe this sounds odd that I do not even think about. The police are armed, only this weekend there was a stop and search, armed police with machine guns. You do not see this often but it happens. You stop they ask questions always polite with a salute (being innocent of any crime) I was bid a very good morning and sent on my way.

    Several years ago there was a bank robbery, two armed men’ father and son.The father came out of the bank with the bank manager ( I was a witness to this).the police shouted for us all to get down.( I had already done that)The robbers were asked three times to drop their weapons ,they did not. Suddenly the father shot the bank manager at point blank range in the side of his stomach..The police opened fire on them both…Ambulances arrived took victim and robbers to hospital. It was an experience I hope never to see again, but the police did a good job,they did not shoot to kill even though a victim had been shot.

    You are in a bar having a coffee a couple of local police come in armed,you just do not think about it. They have never been known as trigger happy but if they need it and their life or a victims is at risk they will use it.

    August 24th, 2009 at 08:43

  17. copper bottom says:

    I’m not suggesting that British officers would be as trigger happy (and such poor shots) as some of their American counterparts, but someone without a gun can’t shoot anyone, can they?


    love it…

    no- we cant- so if you are being threatened with a firearm and I were to turn up – as it stands now- we are both going to die… you might be ok with that… I’m not…

    August 24th, 2009 at 13:28

  18. Retired Copper says:

    This takes me back nearly thirty years when ACPO members felt that a standard helmet was sufficient for dealing with riots “Because it is important not to lose the goodwill of the majority of the public.” They thought that proper helmets, as issued now, were too militaristic and foreign looking. Along comes Toxteth in 1981 and Merseyside lost many many officers with head injuries, and all of a sudden, the MOD were selling the Police NATO helmets, In no time at all PSUs throughout the UK had protective gear. I would hate to think that you are going to have to wait until many many officers are gunned down in some large scale disturbance or terrorist raid before ACPO and the Home Office see sense.

    August 24th, 2009 at 23:18

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