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Should police officers be more routinely armed?

By Pete Madeley | Crime | Published:

Plans for frontline officers in rural areas to routinely carry handguns have been backed by Midlands MPs.

Could armed police officers, such as these outside Wolverhampton bus station following the Manchester terror attack, become a regular sight?

However the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner says arming officers ‘will do little for public safety.’

The move is under consideration by the National Police Chiefs’ Council because of a lack of specialist counter-terrorist firearms officers.

It comes after a drive to recruit such offices fell short by around 100.

Police say that arming officers in remote areas would be a last resort, but have warned that officers there would be ‘sitting ducks’ in the event of a terror attack.

But West Midlands PCC David Jamieson said he was concerned over the possibility of arming police as a matter of course.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson

“Britain has a proud tradition of unarmed policing that is the envy of the world,” he said.

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“We face serious threats, and it is entirely right that we have a highly-trained armed capability in reserve.

“In the West Midlands we are proud of the excellent work armed officers do to keep us safe.

"Routinely arming as is proposed in rural areas, is something I remain sceptical of.

"We need to ensure our armed capability is able to react in a critical mass to respond to the serious threats we face.

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"Moving to an American model of armed policing will do little for public safety.”

Call to arm rural cops in Staffordshire

Plans for frontline officers across rural parts of Staffordshire to routinely carry handguns have been backed by county MPs.

Tory MPs say the measure is necessary due to the rising terrorist threat.

Michael Fabricant first called for Britain to re-examine its tradition of unarmed policing in March 2017, in light of mass shootings in Paris and the increased terrorist threat in the UK.

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant

The Lichfield MP said there was the potential for immense loss of life in Britain’s many towns and villages’, warning that ‘a brutal Paris-style attack could see the assailants roam free shooting innocent people at will’.

On the new plans to arm rural police, Mr Fabricant said: “If a terror event were to happen in rural parts of the UK, time would be lost before armed police arrived.

"Sadly, this is the right decision.”

Stone MP Sir Bill Cash said: “It is perfectly clear that there have been circumstances where violence has been carried out by people with guns and knives in rural areas.

“The police need to be armed in order to deal with such problems, including terrorist attacks. The security of the public comes first.”

Top cop - 'We must be prepared'

Former deputy chief constable of West Mercia Police, Simon Chesterman, who is the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for armed policing, said: “Of course there are communities within England and Wales where an attack is highly unlikely.

Simon Chesterman

"But ultimately, if something does happen, we have got to be able to provide an armed response.”

Mr Chesterman said he was reluctant to suggest routine arming.

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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