17 May 2018
Suggestions that there are now 25 per cent more firearm officers available to help protect the public don’t tell the whole picture and are “disingenuous.”
That’s the response of Ché Donald, vice-chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, following the announcement by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) about an uplift in armed officers.
In 2016 the NPCC announced it was to increase the number of firearms officers by 1,500 by April 2018. Figures released today (Thursday 17 May) state that there are 1351 additional firearms officers, since 2016.
However this includes non-Home Office forces such as the British Transport Police, The Civil Nuclear Constabulary or the Ministry of Defence Police. And if non-Home Office force numbers are discounted, the total increase for Home Office forces still falls short of the 1,500 target at 874.
Mr Donald said: “We don’t doubt that there has been investment and an increase, but Chiefs have employed smoke and mirrors by including the figures for non-Home Office forces claiming the uplift is 1,351. In real terms for the public it is less than 1000 – but either way each set of figures still falls short of the target they set two years ago. It does seem as if they are trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes and is rather disingenuous.
"Firearms officers are also not ‘additional’ officers, but officers who have taken on added responsibilities of carrying a firearms," he said.
This time last year the NPCC Lead on Firearms Simon Chesterman said that the number of armed officers in the UK would rise to more than 7,000 a figure not seen since 2010.
A total figure for the number of firearms officers has not been provided, but the latest available data from March 2017 shows that the total is some 700 officers short of that.
Mr Donald continued: "In the past year we have experienced a series of horrific terrorist attacks in this country and our ability to respond appropriately to these incidents is vital. We need to continue to boost the number of trained firearm officers still further and ensure the operating conditions are conducive to the retention of good officers.
"You have to ask why officers seem to be reluctant to fill these roles; but when you consider that when officers discharge their firearms they often face investigations extending beyond 12 months, reducing their ability to be operational, that might may provide some insight. So there is an issue with attracting people in the first place, and then retention with trained officers questioning whether it’s worth staying in the job as a result.
"This needs to be addressed as these officers provide a crucial role in protecting our society from those who wish to attack it.
"We need an open and honest conversation about arming our police force not those in charge of the providing them fudging the figures," he concluded.
The Police Federation has undertaken its own research into the attitude towards Routine Arming the regional results of which will be published later this year.