Should UK Police be Armed?

While carrying out my research for my forthcoming novel “A Gangster’s Grip” it has led me to think about the role of the police in bringing violent crime under control in Manchester. Although a multi-agency approach is responsible for the reduction in this type of crime, armed response teams played their part. Not only have armed response teams been used for raids on properties associated with gang members, but their stop and search approach also reduced the number of arms being carried into the city centre.

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This prompts the perennial question: should UK police be armed?

As a nation we are unusual in our decision not to routinely arm the police and there have been many calls to arm our officers. However, in a 2012 news report the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, Sir Peter Fahy, defended the decision not to arm the police, arguing that arming police would not mean that officers wouldn’t get shot. His statement was made following the fatal shootings of two WPCs in Greater Manchester.

Although public opinion is divided regarding whether the police should be armed, figures show that the majority of the police themselves are not in favour. According to a survey in 2006, 82% of Police Federation members were against being routinely armed on duty. In contrast, an ICM poll of the public in 2004 showed 47% in support of arming all police and 48% against. Additionally, a 2007 poll of 2,156 adults by Policy Exchange, the centre-right think tank, showed that 72% of those polled wanted more armed police patrols.

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My personal view is that I would not like to see the police routinely armed, but that armed response teams should be used when circumstances demand. It’s a tricky one though, because it’s not always possible to predict when a PC’s life is about to be put at risk.

With regard to armed police, I can remember a security alert a few years ago just before going on holiday. We arrived at Manchester airport to find hordes of armed police patrolling the terminal building. It was the first time I had seen armed police in Manchester, and I remember feeling unsettled. We had the children with us who were only toddlers at the time, which I think added to my unease.

Gun

On another occasion, I had been out for a meal in Manchester with my husband and we were waiting in the queue for a taxi home. A man dashed into the road and, for no apparent reason, decided to launch himself, yelling and screaming, at any vehicle that looked remotely like a taxi. We were concerned that he would seriously injure himself but worried about going to his aid because his behaviour was so volatile.

Everybody in the taxi queue stood open-mouthed wondering how to react. It’s a difficult position to be in because you want to help but, at the same time, you have to consider your own safety. Fortunately, within a couple of minutes the police had picked him up on CCTV and the armed response team were quick to act. In that instance I was glad to see them.

What are your views on arming the police? Are you for or against, or do you think, like me, that armed response teams should just be used for specific circumstances?

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8 thoughts on “Should UK Police be Armed?

  1. I am with you on this one Heather and I think we have to be guided by what the police actually want for themselves. They are, after all, the ones on the streets. I wouldn’t like to see them routinely armed, like you I have been in situations where they have been and it makes me uncomfortable.

    • Thanks for your feedback Georgia. Yes, it was interesting to find the police views on this. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a more up-to-date survey but am curious as to what the current figures would be. 🙂

  2. An interesting post Heather. There’s obviously a time and a place for armed police, but like you I prefer that they are kept back for emergencies. I remember the 2012 Manchester shooting of the 2 WPCs. I have first hand experience of armed police unfortunately. When I was a teenager in London, I was in my bedroom one afternoon when I decided to use my air rifle to shoot things on a neighbour’s window ledge. The neighbour, who I was not aware was in the house, thought someone was trying to assassinate him. You can guess what happened next. After the initial panic had subsided, it was very embarrassing. My mother was furious when she came home to find her windows had been smashed by armed police.

    • Oh my God, Guy, that must have been a very scary experience. Boys and their toys, eh? I remember my brother having a Gat gun when he was a teenager, and he used to get up to a lot of mischief too. We can laugh about it now, but it wasn’t funny at the time. 🙂

  3. Very interesting post, Heather. As an Italian who has moved to the UK many years ago, I found it most troubling to see that policemen here didn’t carry guns. I used to think: how are they going to stop a bank robbery? what if there was a shoot out in the street and they had to intervene? You see, where I come from, in Italy, these things do happen (unfortunately) quite regularly, and it would be utter madness if policemen didn’t carry guns as they would be unable to stop the crimes being committed, or they would get shot themselves while trying to stop the criminals.

    I am not in favour of the general public carrying guns, let’s make that clear 🙂 but I don’t mind police carrying them, as it makes me feel safer (assuming that they are well-trained in the use of them!)

    • Thanks for your feedback Martina. I found it interesting to see on the Facebook comments that people from countries where the police routinely carry arms, seem to be generally more accepting of the situation. My opinion is divided. I feel uncomfortable with the idea of all police carrying guns, but I think there are occasions when armed response teams are necessary. 🙂

  4. Hello Heather, I tend to agree with you – use armed response teams when needed but otherwise leave the guns in the cabinet! I prefer to think of England as a peaceful place (as it was in my youth) with a local Bobby on the beat. The kind of policeman who knew every child by name and wasn’t afraid to box their ears if they needed it, but of course I know it will never be like that again.

    • Thanks for stopping by Barbara. Yes, I think the days of the local bobby on the beat are long gone. Not only that, but most areas have changed too. There is no longer the community spirit that there used to be. I live on a street where everyone keeps themselves to themselves and I don’t know who half my neighbours are. I think it’s quite sad to have lost that. 🙂

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