Where will extra firearms officers come from?

01 April 2016

Any increase in armed police officers could be a good thing, but not if it depletes the frontline.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has announced that police in England and Wales will train around 1500 extra firearms officers, using the £143 million of new funding that has been set aside.

Che Donald, lead on firearms for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said this could be positive, but had questions. “Bearing in mind that police levels are at the lowest we’ve seen in decades, the question must be asked – where will these extra firearms officers come from?

“We know that they will have to come from existing strength, and with police numbers so low to draw from, we can't increase armed firearms officer levels without depleting the already thin front line and neighbourhood policing. Sadly, there’s no armed police tree that we can pluck new officers from."

Che Donald also said that one of the issues is around recruiting firearms officers: "They have concerns about how much legal protection they have when carrying or using firearms, as recent cases have highlighted."

“The Prime Minister’s announcement on firearm officer levels is good, but it needs more details than headline grabbing smoke and mirrors. We would rather encourage a review into the levels of protection afforded to firearms officers, which in turn would encourage a greater number of officers to apply, knowing they have the support of the government and backing for the difficult jobs they have to do."

He said that in addition to this, the government needs to be investing in increasing police numbers, not just getting existing officers to change roles or take on extra duties.

“Following horrific recent international attacks, including those in France and Belgium, the British public will rightly expect the police to be able to react to a very different type of threat, and it is essential we should be able to do this," he said.

“Our members and the public we serve trust that any officers who carry firearms will be properly trained and resourced, to the same exacting and high standards as those existing firearms officers are. But to just say we are going to increase firearms numbers doesn’t paint a true picture of policing levels in the country.”