Firearms uplift: 'moving in the right direction, but we can't be complacent'

20 April 2017

The firearms uplift is moving in the right direction but we can’t afford to be complacent, says the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) firearms lead Che Donald.

Responding to yesterday’s comments by national firearms lead Simon Chesterman, he welcomed the news that firearms officer numbers would rise back to over 7,000 – a level not seen 2010.

But he warned: “We have got to keep up the momentum of recruiting and training more officers, and also look at the issue of retention. These officers have got to come from somewhere – in the last 12 months alone, Essex has lost 40 firearms officers to neighbouring forces including the Met and City.

“We are operating against a backdrop of a much more severe terror threat than in 2010 – we need to continue boosting these numbers still further and ensure the operating conditions are conducive to the retention of good officers.”

The issue of the draft IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) guidelines for post-incident procedures following fatal shootings continued to be a problem, he said.

“Our members, the Federation and the Police Firearms Officers Association remain concerned that officers continue to be treated as suspects rather than professional witnesses in the event that they discharge their weapons. Firearms officers are questioning whether it’s worth staying in the job as a result.”

And while it was also announced yesterday that an additional 41 Armed Response Vehicles were now available in England and Wales at any given 24 hour period ‘in areas considered to be at greatest threat or with geographical challenges’, Mr Donald said: “The reality is that these resources need to be available to all areas, not just high-risk ones, because frontline officers depend on their support and backup to help protect the public and thwart dangerous criminals.”

Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman, the NPCC lead for armed policing also announced that the recruitment of counter terrorism specialist firearms officers would be extended and they would be given extra training similar to that of military Special Forces. In addition they would be able to operate alongside firearms officers from the British Transport Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary, Ministry of Defence Police  and if necessary, the military.