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News & Editorials
Should UK Police Carry Firearms

Should UK Police Carry Firearms?


Oisin Dreamtime

Date: Sun, 30 Jul 2000 10:30:16 +0100
From: "Oisin Dreamtime" <>
Subject: Re: UK Officers Shot At

There are many schools of thought about whether or not the UK Police should carry firearms.

I have 29 years in "The Job" and one of my first acts was to attend the Funeral of Superintendent Gerry Richardson of the Lancashire Constabulary who was murdered (shot) whilst trying to arrest a male responsible for an armed robbery on a jewelers in Blackpool, Lancashire. (July 1971)

Since 1971, a number UK officers have been murdered whilst on duty, but not all those killed have been as a result of firearms. Where there has been a death as result of a firearm, I hazard to guess how many times the possession of a firearm by the deceased Officer would have saved his/her life. If we are to consider that factor we should look at the "mindset" of the UK Officer.

In the UK, firearms are not as prevalent as they are in the USA. Even more so since the UK Government ban on the personal possession of firearms following the Dunblane Incident. So the vast majority of the UK society would perceive a threat of physical violence is more likely to be from someone with a knife or blunt instrument than someone with a firearm. By association, UK Officers may have a similar perception.

Though the criminal community still preferred brute force as opposed to firearms; there was always a reluctance by UK criminals to use firearms - as the British Courts were not frightened to impose the Death Penalty where someone had died. Unfortunately, the Death Penalty was outlawed in the late 1950's early 1960's. With the exception of London and to a lesser extent the other big UK cities, armed criminals were not a particular threat to Society in the 60's, 70's, 80's. However, the 1990's has seen an explosive rise in criminal use of firearms, and the UK Police has looked towards meeting the threat by firstly creating Armed Response Vehicles (ARV) and then increasing the frequency and number of patrols by ARV's.

As all Police Officers across the Western World know, there is the ever present threat of "Trial by Media". We have all seen the Newspaper photographs that have been skillfully "cropped", so that the Offender(s) right hand that carries the machete is out of picture whilst the "baton" wielding Officer is there in all his Glory.

Many UK Officers of the 1970's, 80's and to a lesser extent the 90's often felt that if they were given firearms they would be more frightened to use them for the trouble that we would bring down upon our own heads. This was the era of the Civil Liberties Group, whose sole intention was to discredit the Police or so it appeared - by showing them in a bad light by analyzing every incident where an Officer had used force. During those decades, our only form of protection was a 18" piece of wood that was concealed in a special trouser pocket. If we drew a baton in public, we were duty bound to complete a written report to justify our actions. In fact we had a fight on our hands around 1995 to get UK Government to allow UK Police to use PR24, then an even bigger fight for them to allow the use of incapitants (sprays) - and even then they went for CS and opposed to OC spray.

It was Sir Robert Peel back in 1829 who forged the image of the unarmed British Police Officer. His aim was to gain popular acceptance of a group, then universally unacceptable to British Society. Within a decade, the "Peelers" had gained acceptance and become "Bobbies".  (Back then, though, they did often carry firearms particularly on Night Duty in the Metropolis/London.) My own father in 1938 as a young Constable in the Liverpool City Police carried a firearm on nights whilst patrolling the Liverpool docks because of IRA activity.

Policing alters ever so slightly but all the time, and Policing in the 21st Century is different than it was in 1972. The UK Police Officer in the year 2000 may have a totally different opinion than Officers of my generation on the rights and wrongs of permanently being armed. I just hope that SOMEONE in authority listens to what they have to say.

Oisin Dreamtime, Constable of Police

>Gunman Shoots At Police In London
>Scotland Yard said that a gunman opened fire on police 
>officers on Thursday as they pursued him in a high-speed 
>car chase. No one was injured in the incident

Oisin Dreamtime,

Constable of Police in the United Kingdom

Disclaimer: All comments are the personal opinion of the writer and not intended to represent any government agency, whatsoever.

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