Over the last 3 or 4 years there has been a large increase of armed police being on foot or static in their vehicles at set locations or events. This is largely driven by the terror incidents that we have had both in the UK and abroad. There has been a massive push on getting us out, visible to the public. It’s been a change for a lot of armed cops. In London, they do have armed police at static points as well as in vehicles but that’s not the same up and down the country.
This is largely driven by the terror incidents that we have had both in the UK and abroad. There has been a massive push on getting us out, visible to the public. It’s been a change for a lot of armed cops. In London, they do have armed police at static points as well as in vehicles but that’s not the same up and down the country.
As an ARV Officer, we normally are not out on foot unless we are at a job. When we are at a job, we don’t generally engage with the public unless directing them away or around us. We usually attract a crowd who all want to film us on their phones (I will write about my views on this another time) but we don’t usually get approached or talked to. Our attention is on the job at hand and dealing with it. However, when on foot or static in crowded places, we get approached and talked to.
More often than not you will now see armed police at major or large transport hubs, airports, train stations etc. We will be at large sporting events, large arenas where there are music concerts etc. We will be inside large retail shopping centres, at city centre events such as Christmas markets and summer events. We are at large festivals, parades, protests and rallies. Basically, anywhere where there is likely to be a large crowd of people, you are now more likely to see armed police. And when we are in these areas, at these events, some people will understandably want to talk to us.
It’s always amusing to stand and people watch, to see the looks on people’s faces when they see us. The best ones are people walking in a group or with another person, deep in conversation, in a little world of their own and then they see us, usually when just a few feet away. It’s normally a look of horror as they see you for the first time. We get looks of shock, of horror, of distain, puzzled looks and lots of nudges between couples/friends/groups as they try to point us out without us noticing. We always notice.
Then the questions start. “Excuse me, is that a Taser.” Not a strange question you may think and you’d be right. However, more often than not, they are pointing to my sidearm at the time! “No sir/madam, this is my Taser” as I tap the bright yellow, highly visible Taser on my kit. The look then becomes ‘oh, if that’s your Taser then what is…..oooooh .’
Another one we always get is “is that a real gun.” Quickly followed up with “Does it shoot plastic/rubber bullets.” A comment we quite often overhear as people walk past us is “That obviously isn’t real. Look; it’s plastic.” A comment that makes me want to reply “Just like the one you have on Call Of Duty?” Yes, a lot of the visible parts of the carbine Rifle is indeed plastic looking. It is actually carbon fiber-reinforced polyamide. (I only know this as I’ve googled it!!) but it is a real gun, I assure you. A popular comment is something along the lines of “Its a bit extreme having you here!” That particular comment isn’t heard at all just after a terror incident and we are seen in public which just goes to show how some people soon forget the horrors and the reason why we are there.
A question we get asked, usually from teenagers, is “Have you ever shot anyone?” Or “Can I hold your gun?” One of the most asked questions is “Are you expecting trouble?” Usually asked by a very worried looking person. I’m yet to answer “Yes, and I recommend you leave this area immediately and never return” as I start to shoulder my weapon. My sense of humour really wants me to give this answer but I’m sure the email I’d receive from an ACC or Chief Super requesting my attendance in their office would make me regret it. So, if you do ever see on the news that an armed cop caused mass panic with a misplaced comment, please set up a Just-Giving account to pay my legal fees and replace my pension!
My favourite ever came whilst getting a coffee. I could see two men, early 20’s, looking over and talking quietly about us. So I went over and said hi. “Is that a gun?” I was asked. “It is, yes” I replied. “oh, I thought that only armeď police carried guns?” ……….. I just looked at him and waited for him to realise. It didn’t take long and he went very red as his mate burst out laughing!
We also get very nice gestures and comments. We gets offers of hot drinks being purchased for us, bottles of water given to us as well as cakes and other treats. These gestures are always very gratefully received but usually politely declined. We do get the comment “Thank you for being here and keeping us safe.” That one is one of my favourites. Such a few words but they mean a lot because someone has taken the time to stop and say those words to us when they could of continued to walk past. Thank you.
So, if you do see us around and we are not at an incident or dealing with something, please take note. We are watching you. We see you nudging, giggling and staring. We hear your comments, positive or negative. We will answer your questions and speak with you if you approach us. We do very much appreciate the positives and the kind gestures but please don’t be offended if we decline an offer of a drink (it’s usually because we will need the toilet if we drink too much!) But most of all, understand we are there to make you feel safe and to deal with any threats that may cause you danger.
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