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Do you agree? Norfolk chief constable says arming police is not the answer to crime

06:30 29 September 2012

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The debate over whether all police officers should carry firearms was raised again last week following the deaths of two police officers in Manchester. Phil Gormley, Chief Constable of Norfolk police, discusses the issue here.

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The deaths of constables Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes in Manchester last week has understandably prompted much debate as to whether all British police officers should be routinely armed.

It has also bought into sharp focus the risks that officers take on behalf of the public whilst going about their normal everyday duties.

In reality it is impossible to eliminate personal risk from the profession of policing which by its very nature requires officers to place themselves between danger and the public. British police officers know and understand this when they join the service.

The tradition of predominantly unarmed constables patrolling with the consent and support of the public is precious and should not be given up lightly. British policing at its heart is about our relationship with the public we serve that relationship would irrevocably change were every officer to be armed.

The only realistic way in which an officer could protect themselves from an unforeseen surprise gun attack would be to approach every routine interaction with a gun in their hand. It is not hard to imagine the impact this would have on relationships between the police and the communities we serve.

The lifeblood of effective policing is good intelligence it enables us to deploy our increasingly stretched resources to maximum effect and to neutralise criminal threats before they are realised. Intelligence is provided by individuals and communities on the basis of the trust and confidence they have in us. In essence the bedrock of good policing is the relationship between communities and the police. The arming of all officers would further distance us from those we serve with a probable reduction in the provision of information, intelligence and support to the detriment of society at large. I firmly believe that it is as likely to increase the risks and dangers to the public and the police as it is to reduce them.

Many of my best officers have neither the wish nor the aptitude to routinely carry firearms. The selection and training of armed officers (all of whom are volunteers) is necessarily rigorous and properly demanding. The use of lethal force is a heavy responsibility with dire consequences for all concerned if it goes wrong. A decision to arm the entire service would require an alteration to the existing standards of selection training and accuracy or to fundamentally change the basis upon which officers are selected to join the Service.

Neither of these options are desirable and would probably expose the police and the public to a range of unintended and undesirable consequences.

What is required on the limited occasions it is needed is readily available, properly trained and equipped specialist firearms support to protect the public or the police from lethal threats. Following the Hungerford massacre in 1987 this support has been provided by officers in Armed Response Vehicles. These officers are trained and equipped to the highest standards, capable of taking on and overcoming the most dangerous criminals and terrorists.

Every Chief Constable carefully evaluates the strategic threats and risks presented by armed criminality in their force area and makes proportionate decisions as to the number and deployment of armed officers based on that professional assessment. Self evidently the threat of gun crime in cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester are higher than in a county like ours with consequently greater numbers of armed officers deployed in those locations.

The British police service has an enviable reputation in relation to its use of firearms which stands comparison with any other jurisdiction. In 2010/2011 firearms were authorised for deployment at 17,209 incidents across the country. Of these deployments, firearms were discharged by police on only 3 occasions, a testament to the professionalism and restraint of those officers who volunteer to carry firearms and shoulder that awesome responsibility in order to protect their fellow citizens.

The issue of whether all police should be armed all of the time is therefore a complicated one with profound consequences not all of which are immediately obvious. It is right that the question is raised and the motivation is a good one namely to prevent further tragedies such as we witnessed last week.

However, I for one do not believe that an armed service is the right answer. What I do know and believe as we approach the funerals of Fiona and Nicola is that officers across the country will continue to carry out the job they have sworn to do and that our best protection comes from the active support of those we serve.

- Do you agree? Cast your vote in the poll above and leave a comment below.

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21 comments

  • Simply put, If police officers were to be armed I would prefer them to have a conscience and not answer that they have no problem with carrying a firearm. Accidents happen! (And stop calling me Shirley!)

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    Thoreauwasright

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • Sorry this is off topic, but how tall is Phil Gormley? I ask because I think it important that our new police commissioner is a couple of inches taller. On the gun topic, why not give the police guns but no bullets. Having a police gun pointed at you should be enough to stop you, even if it isn't loaded. You know what I mean, speed cameras without film in them etc.

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    Rhombus

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • nrg's comparison is wrong as our policing is orientated to US police practises not to European forces. If fire arms training amounts to brain washing, clouding the personal conscience, then is does not matter whether the persona is psychologically stable, whatever that is supposed to mean. I have seen the hardest people crack psychologically when faced with personal tragedy, death of partners or relatives, wife's giving birth etc., so what does it matter? Rather than letting SAS soldiers train the Met police, lets try civilian teachers, who are not appealing to the gung ho nature that has led to the Menezes case;although this could be entirely down to the culture within then Met. Could not possibly imagine what would have happened if the police in Hillsborough were armed.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Sunday, September 30, 2012

  • It would be a terrible idea to arm the police. Yes there are guns on the streets, but adding more guns to the streets is hardly the answer. The police in America are all armed, and it doesn't stop them getting shot and killed. Our police forces have armed response units already, and I would have thought that this is enough to deal with armed offenders. Whilst the recent shooting of two unarmed officers is very sad, it is an isolated incident. Officers visit many reports of crime every day with no need to be armed. The more guns that are out there, the more people will be killed by them, whichever side of the law they stand on.

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    DJM

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • No Thanks, most are not qualified to carry a pea shooter, let alone a gun

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    Farquarson-Smythe

    Sunday, September 30, 2012

  • Every new police recruit should be at asked at their first interview would carrying firearms be a problem. Those who say 'yes' you don't employ. No other EU country has a problem of fully armed everyday plod, why should the Brit force differ??? they all face the same Mafia,gangsta and terror*st threat!

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    nrg

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • You couldn't arm all officers as they are now, they are not all professional, can we take the word of an officer he was called an F’ing pleb, no, we had an officer who wrote on a form it was 07.00am when it was dark and 19.00, that still stands in court as being ‘reliable’. They would need to be better and more highly trained, sending 2 women Police officers to a 'routine burglary' or whatever the daft phrase used was, is just stupid. More and more criminals use firearms, knives, so Police should be suitably armed to deal with it, if they dropped a few people at the roadside if the offenders are armed I'd rather that than they murder people and get a pathetic sentence. I don't see Police officers killed in the line of duty as being murdered, and I don't agree that a Police officer killed is more of a crime than if anyone else is killed by a criminal. A relation of one of the officers wants the killer to be hung, that should be their choice, and for everyone else too. I would not have a problem with the death sentence, damn sight cheaper than pampering them in jail, which with some modern prisons, the rooms, the facilities, whoop what we had to endure on the new maternity ward 2 weeks ago at the UEA hospital. There's an abundance of humans, so any wrong ones who maim, kill, murder, I would have no problem seeing them get the death sentence and gone from our society altogether for good, or drop them off for food for polar bears for all I care. You can be as civilised, advanced a society as you like, but it won't work unless all people are as civilised within that, hence the death sentence still has a place. It's half worth criminals murdering these days as the sentences in no way reflect the crime committed, if indeed they are ever caught.

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    Jason Bunn

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • I would hate to see the police armed, because to be quite honest a lot of them don't look up to the job. I don't know what has happened the recruitment criteria but some of them don't look capable of holding a gun let alone firing it.

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    John L Norton

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • This old chestnut comes up on the extremely rare occasion that a police officer gets shot. The two police women that were shot were ambushed so even if they had been armed, the outcome would probably have been the same, as they had no idea that they would be confronted by an armed man. Just look at the incident in New York outside the Empire State Building when police confronted a murderer. Nine members of the public were injured, three seriously, in the shoot out that ensued. Every one of that 9 was hit by a police bullet. In another incident in the USA several cops were shot dead after pursuing a criminal into an apartment block, all by police bullets. It turned out the criminal was never in the building. Statistically, police are well down the list of deaths at work, with construction workers coming top. Of those that died the majority were road traffic accidents, and gun deaths are very rare.

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    Derek Colman

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • Arming police at this point in time would be absolutely ridiculous and anyone who suggests otherwise wants their head testing. I also agree with Thoreauwasright in that there is only a very small percentage of officers could be trusted with a gun and I am sure many wouldn't want one either.

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    Bloater

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • Sorry, should have read 'no'!

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    Thoreauwasright

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • For decades the standard equipment was a trucheon and a pair of cuffs. In the past 15 years have come the extending baton, sprays and now tasars. Each was only to be used as a last resort but now all are used so frequently the public seems quite oblivious to them. If officers were to be armed the same thing would happen and we would have many innocent people killed on our streets. I for one would like to see the way we are policed toned down. Their para military uniform does not belong here and as for the balaclava being increasingly being worn by officers armed to the teeth - a definite no no for me. If the police keep on ratcheting up what they have in their armory the criminals will respond accordingly. After all,what have they to lose in the long run. They will only get a prison sentence.

    Report this comment

    BG

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • nrg, I would suggest that any recruit who answers 'yes' unequivocally has possible psychopathic tendencies and would be advised to seek treatment.

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    Thoreauwasright

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • I totally agree with the NCC Phil Gormley. We have specialist teams within the force to hold firearms who are highly skilled in this activity. We need to remember how often such events and instances require an armed response and i'm sure most crimes day to day in the UK are not in need of an armed response. What we need is the laws of prosecution changed to protect our police forces to avoid such sad tragic losses of our respected officers. Any violence with a weapon should hold much greater penalties to individuals to avoid such crimes in the first place. This would allow the police to remain closer to the public as they do now for their source of intel. Its important the police are seen as approachable, otherwise there would become a them and us situation in some larger cities and areas that currently might not exist. Again, nearly all hostile situations that the police encounter are won over by strong negotiating skills and a calm approach unlike what could become a weapons fight of aggression leading to further losses day to day. I believe its all about education and appropriate deterrents. After all, how many of you notice drivers act sensibly and calmly on the roads when they see a police car, as soon as the police car turns off everyone speeds up and starts to drive badly again.......

    Report this comment

    Andrew James

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • Theo, why??? In your first post you hinted that something could be amiss when plod eye up their new recruits...shirley..someone comfortable and at ease in carrying a gun, is by far the better plod prospect, than some wimpish nervous objector ?

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    nrg

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • Some interesting comments in this piece, for example, the use of the word 'further' in the statement 'The arming of all officers would further distance us from those we serve' and the admission that 'A decision to arm the entire service would require an alteration to the existing standards of selection training and accuracy or to fundamentally change the basis upon which officers are selected to join the Service.' which suggests that the selection process is not rigorous enough regardless of whether an officer is armed or not. There are very few police officers I would trust with a loaded gun.

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    Thoreauwasright

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • Yes ensure they ALL carry guns. This country is getting worse with kids following the adults examples, and thinking its "cool" to carry guns and knives and kill people. Armed police would be a deterrent, i would feel safer and better knowing they can protect themselves.

    Report this comment

    markt74

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • Reality check for myself or another visit to specsavers!! D'oh!...".Norfolk chief constable says arming police is not the answer to crime." He's right, two different agenda's here by the EN, crime and armed plod. Tougher sentencing and the removal of Mafia personnel from Blighty will address crime, arming everyday day plod will reduce incidences of slaughtered officers, as what happened last week..simples

    Report this comment

    nrg

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • Aren't new constables here locally, looking young these days? But on a serious note, I doubt very much if the two murdered constables, had they been armed I doubt if it would of made any difference, as the murderer was hell bent on murdering the two officers anyway, the only deterrent may be capital punishment. But now having thought about some more, perhaps arming officers is a form of capital punishment, if you shoot then you will be shot?

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    Bruce87

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

  • If one looks at the recent deaths of the two police officers in Manchester just think what could have happened if the officers were armed. The killer would have gained two more weapons plus whatever else would have been in their car. Think of the many more he would have killed or tried to kill with their weapons. Those posting comments against arming the police are spot on as far as I am concerned.

    Report this comment

    BG

    Monday, October 1, 2012

  • For decades the standard equipment was a trucheon and a pair of cuffs. In the past 15 years have come the extending baton, sprays and now tasars. Each was only to be used as a last resort but now all are used so frequently the public seems quite oblivious to them. If officers were to be armed the same thing would happen and we would have many innocent people killed on our streets. I for one would like to see the way we are policed toned down. Their para military uniform does not belong here and as for the balaclava being increasingly being worn by officers armed to the teeth - a definite no no for me. If the police keep on ratcheting up what they have in their armory the criminals will respond accordingly. After all,what have they to lose in the long run. They will only get a prison sentence.

    Report this comment

    BG

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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