ALMOST two thirds of Essex’s police officers say they would be willing to carry guns – ten per cent higher than the average in England and Wales.
A recent Police Federation of England and Wales survey revealed that 41 per cent of Essex officers are in favour of the routine arming of officers and that 65 per cent would be prepared to carry a firearm at times on duty. Across England and Wales, that figure was 55 per cent.
However, Essex Police Federation Chairman Steve Taylor believes that officers in Essex and beyond should not be routinely armed.
“We police by consent and I think the routine arming of every officer could undermine that system.
“Thankfully at the moment I don’ think we face the level of firearms violence that would necessitate officers having guns.”
Armed officers in Essex attended more than 500 incidents requiring a firearms response in the county in 2017.
Between the two main firearms teams – one responding to incidents across the county and the other at Stansted Airport – there were 522 deployments requiring firearms support throughout 2017.
These incidents range from emergency calls to reports of dangerous criminals armed with guns, to those in distress who pose a risk of harm to themselves and others.
The teams also carried out planned deployments including warrants, operations or planned arrests where intelligence suggests individuals involved may have firearms or other dangerous weapons.
There were 2,596 incidents requiring the support of Taser-trained officers, to deal with volatile or dangerous suspects. Despite the number of incidents, Tasers were only fired at 24 of the incidents in the last year.
The armed officers also carried out 768 arrests during 2017, completed 7,872 hours of basic firearms training and attended 14,580 non-firearms incidents.
The team are trained to use firearms including: Tasers; side-arms including the Glock 17 and long-barrelled weapons including Heckler and Koch G36.
Mr Taylor added that armed officers can face an elevated risk, especially when the level of training they received is not as high as specialist armed police.
He added: “The dreadful tragic case in Belgium where the two female officers were killed with their own guns and the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in France are examples where officers carry guns, but they are not trained to the same standards as our AFOs.
“Specialised firearms officers and their training is head and shoulders above the ordinary training police who carry guns in other countries receive.
“During the attack in Liege the officers’ guns were taken from them and used to commit further atrocities and while these may be extreme cases they are a reason why I don’t want officers routinely carrying firearms.
“I don’t think our communities want to see that either,” he added.