More than 3,000 police firearms operations in West Midlands and Staffordshire

More than 3,000 police operations involving firearms took place in the West Midlands and Staffordshire last year, new figures show.

Armed firearms officers in Birmingham. Photo: SnapperSK
Armed firearms officers in Birmingham. Photo: SnapperSK

Data from the Home Office reveals armed officers were deployed 3,146 times across the two police areas in the year up to March.

It represents an overall increase of 11 per cent when compared to the year before, when officers were deployed 2,824 times in the region.

Across England and Wales the number of firearms operations stayed largely the same – with 18,259 this year and 18,245 the year before.

Dr Liam O'Shea, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute think tank, said that officers remain unlikely to actually fire their weapons.

"The rate of police officers discharging a firearm remains low, particularly when compared to countries such as the United States," he said.

Armed officers intentionally fired a weapon just four times nationally last year – and there has been just one year in the last decade where this number reached double figures.

The figures show officers were deployed 2,796 times from West Midlands Police in the year up to March – up 13 per cent from the year before, when there were 2,477 firearms operations.

Armed officers notably descended on Hall Park Street, in Wolverhampton, in March last year after gunshots were heard. Five unmarked armoured police cars were at the estate along with patrol cars and the road which was initially cordoned off.

A resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said at the time was usually a "very quiet street". "We watched it from our window upstairs and there seemed to be a lot of policemen out pointing their guns at a house," they said.

Meanwhile Staffordshire Police saw 350 deployments over the same period which was an increase of just one per cent from the year before, when there were 347 firearms operations.

Most police operations do not involve the use of firearms, though armed officers are deployed in certain cases such as for incidents involving violent crime or to patrol high-risk areas.

But Liberty, a human rights charity, has raised concerns about the number of firearms operations carried out by English and Welsh police forces.

Emmanuelle Andrews, a policy and campaigns manager at the charity, said: "We agree that use of firearms should be rolled back, but it’s important to remember that they are not the only dangerous weapons in the police’s toolkit.

"Supposedly ‘less lethal’ weapons like Tasers can and do kill – earlier this year, an officer was charged with grievous bodily harm after he shot a young black man, Jordan Walker-Brown, with a Taser, leaving him paralysed from the chest down."

The Government has encouraged police forces to deploy 'less lethal' weapons – which aim to incapacitate suspects, rather than cause long-term harm – as a means of reducing the number of firearms it uses.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We’re committed to giving the police the resources they need to fight crime. That’s why we’ve given policing an additional £1.1bn billion this year and are recruiting 20,000 additional officers across England and Wales."

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