There’s been quite a bit in the news recently regarding whether Police Authorised Firearms Officers (AFO’s) should attend ‘routine’ calls (if there ever could be such a thing) whilst actually being armed with their weapons.
The matter first arose publicly in Scotland where after a change in ‘standing policy’ was introduced back in 2013 authorising AFO’s on duty to be permanently armed with their sidearm – typically a Glock 9mm automatic pistol. Such was the outcry form councillors and ‘concerned people’ that Police Scotland back-tracked and revised their policy to state that armed officers would only be sent to specific incident types.
Other police forces in England and Wales have also had a similar working practice for some years, and to most, it makes perfect sense, especially in the ‘Shire’ forces where officer numbers are lower, the area to be covered is bigger, and there is a perhaps bigger need to get the nearest resource to get to an incident that say, would be the case in a major city where available officer numbers are (hopefully) more plentiful.
For clarification here, we aren’t talking officers wandering the streets with MP5 machine guns strapped across their chests all the while – although officers equipped with these have been stationed at airports and other primary locations for many years without concern – we are talking about officers permanently on patrol with sidearms on display (like in the picture above).
From speaking to AFO’s in my own force, who are permanently armed, and do attend all types of calls to police from RTC’s to missing people to domestic incidents to burglaries and beyond, their comments seem to marry up with feedback I’ve received from cops in other forces – namely that the public don’t really care. If they need police they just want officers there, it doesn’t matter if they are armed or not.
My colleagues tell me that most people never seem to notice the pistol strapped to their leg or at least never mention it, but daily they get quizzed about the highly visible, bright yellow Taser that they also carry.
In the new world order, with the massive cuts in funding and officer numbers that have already taken place in the last few years, and the threat of much more of a budget reduction in the next three years, can we really afford to say ‘NO, firearms officers only go to firearms jobs”
Can it be right that an Armed Response Vehicle may be literally minute away from an urgent call for assistance where a person may be real danger, but because there is no ‘firearm’ or ‘weapon’ threat, then a panda from 20 miles away has to respond ?
Surely an armed cop turning up to help is better than no cop at all ??
Remember, the first priority of any police officer is to protect life and property. And AFO’s are everyday police officers. They have just volunteered to take on an additional, very important, role. They still carry a warrant card, still have powers of arrest, and still have taken an oath to uphold the law.
Christopher Salmon, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed Powys Police has taken the move of polling the public to gauge their opinion on the matter. Now I’m not going to pass comment or judgement on whether that’s his role to be involved with anyway, and if that’s an operational decision that should be left to the forces’ Chief Officers, but the question has been raised again so in the balance of fairness, I’ve created the survey below to ask what you think about the matter.
Now I fully appreciate the majority of people reading this will in fact be police related, either serving or retired officers, their families or friends, but I do also get the odd ‘one or two’ people that aren’t so closely connected to the policing family happening along for a good read too so their opinion is just as, if not more, important.
Please take the survey below, and add your comments on the subject, positive or negative, at the bottom of this page.