Officers want more firearms specialists
13th February 2017
The Guardian - Nearly half of all Metropolitan police officers want more firearms specialists and 75% believe they should all be issued Tasers, a survey suggests.
In a survey by the Metropolitan Police Federation (MPF), the force’s union, 6% also said the quantity of gun-carrying officers in the capital was “inadequate”.
Ken Marsh, MPF chairman, said the portion of specially trained firearms officers should be doubled to 16% after the survey of 11,000 officers was completed.
“We’re in a far more dangerous society than we have ever been and so we have to have the correct equipment to deal with that,” said Marsh, who cited the attack in Nice last July, in which Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was shot dead after killing 86 people.
“If you take the lorry in Nice for example, that drove into crowds of people, my cops are not armed and they would not have been able to respond like the French police did, and instead would have had to make a call.
“We’re not asking for mandatory arming of all officers, but what they are asking for is for more specially-trained officers. We have to stick to the stringent criteria and the criteria for handling a firearm in the UK is still the toughest in the world.”
The questionnaire, circulated over three weeks last month and answered by a third of the 31,000 Met officers, found that 43.6% wanted more firearms personnel.
A total of 26% thought officers should be routinely armed, compared with the 20% who said so in an England and Wales-wide survey last year; 12% said they never want to carry a firearm on duty under any circumstances.
After Islamic State terrorists killed 130 people in gun and bomb attacks in Paris in November 2015, Met firearms officers were upped from 2,200 to 2,800. MI5’s terror threat level has rested on “severe”, the fourth most serious of five levels, since August 2014.
Marsh, a former Tottenham police constable of 22 years, also wants extra investment in stun guns, and added: “If you look at the last two to three years, the number of assaults on police are going up unrecognisably.
“The average constable doesn’t hold the same authority. When I was a child, you didn’t dare blink at a police officer.”
Diane Abbott, shadow home secretary, has frequently spoken of the “cautious” approach police should take to using stun guns, and last week criticised the use of the mesh fabric “spit hoods”, which can be cloaked over a suspect’s head.
A spokesman for the Met refused to say whether any decision was being made to increase Taser and firearm capacity.
Commander Matt Twist, in charge of armed policing, said the force was “rightly proud” of being a “predominately unarmed police service”.
“Every single officer who carries a Taser is fully and professionally trained to do so. This will be kept under constant review and if the risks our officers face can be mitigated by more officers carrying Taser, then of course that will be considered.”