A Met Police officer was shot and injured in Croydon on Friday night whilstÂ pursuingÂ a suspect on foot. The officer had no ability to return fire, and thankfully was only hit in the arm. This incident he was dealing with was nothing more than a “suspicious person” call, just like the ones we go to time and again. On Police arrival, the three suspects ran off.
Again the subject of routine arming of UK Police officers rears its head.
Firstly, I wish the injured officer all the best and hope he makes a full and speedy recovery with the full support his colleagues, line managers and eventually the CPS and courtsâ€¦
Secondly, in ten years of service I have been faced with only one armed suspect (talking firearms only hereâ€¦the knives, swords, and batons are far more significant in number). He had a high-powered and scoped rifle and thankfully chose not to use it. IÂ didn’tÂ like it, and have no desire to repeat the experience if at all possible.
As for the debate on routine arming:
I donâ€™t recall many briefings that contained the warning, â€œAt 22:45 you will be expected to chase a burglarâ€¦oh and by the way, he will be carrying a pistol in his jacketâ€.
If only our intelligence unit was that accurate with their info. To be fair, it would be nice if the intelligence briefing had all the relevant road and suspect names spelt right for a start. They can, of course, tell you the exact price of anything on the menu in Costa with 100% accuracy.
We cannot therefore take to the streets safe in the knowledge that our hair-gelled, combat-trouser-wearing colleagues in their locked office have provided us with the necessary info to stay safe for the next ten hours.
We donâ€™t always get the chance to do a full risk assessment before turning up at a scene. We do so hoping that everything will work out and that are not about to become the name on the next stone plaque inserted into the pavement.
Frustrated with this situation, I went for a post on the firearms team last year. All went really well with the assessment process. I passed all the psych tests and the live scenarios, only to fall at the final hurdle â€“ the interview panel. Apparently I didnâ€™t provide enough evidence in the diversity element of the meeting.
I managed to prove that I can do the job, that I am unlikely to start spraying rounds into crowds at random during a public order incident, but unfortunately that matters not as I failed to prove I could provide a far more comprehensive investigation to anyone outside the majority demographic for my area that could be expected by Mr and Mrs Average and their 2.2 IC1 children.
I understand that there are potential issues with training up every bobby to use the variety of kit involved in the AFO or SFO role, but thatâ€™s not what we are after. I donâ€™t think there is a need to give a G36 to every officer in the Neighbourhood Policing Team. FÃªteâ€™s rarely go that wrong!
What I do believe is that there is a case for routine arming with a side arm, or at the very least a Taser. The training abstractions would not be too prohibitive and (if just limited to a pistol or taser shoot) could even be run with a 3 month re-qualification period to keep up the skills a little more. Perhaps we could replace a three hour Equality and Fairness Training session with something more practical!
In our area the nearest firearms officers are usually between 20 and 45 minutes away. This is no good for a dynamic incident â€“ especially when you factor in that for most of our tour we work in the GFA and without local knowledge, you can easily spend an hour trying to navigate through the maze of â€œunnamed roadâ€s.
Being properly equipped is, unfortunately, little more than a pipe dream at the moment. No doubt it will remain this way until some suspect gets lucky and pulls off a head-shot. By then, though, itâ€™s too lateâ€¦we need to act now.
But we wonâ€™tâ€¦.