As many of you know, I have recently done a 24 hour poll on my Twitter page (see below) asking this very question. (Well, apart from that I didn’t clarify the firearm bit which was pointed out to me). The results were as follows:
There were 437 votes cast over the 24 hour period and there were many comments left with people saying which way they had voted plus their reasons for voting that way. There have been a couple of good little debates between people on the thread and some very valid arguments for both sides.
I will try my best to cover most points raised and give my personal opinions on these arguments and I will give my overall view on the question I asked. Thank you all for taking part in the poll. If you read this and haven’t voted, please feel free to carry on the debate on my Twitter page and please look out for further polls and blogs.
So, 51% yes, 49% no. I expected it to be quite an equal split but wasn’t expecting it to almost exactly 50/50. It’s been interesting for me to read the comments and see if the writer is cop/ex cop or not. More comments from the ‘not’ category have voted Yes, all should be armed. There was one very clear exceptions this from someone with a cannabis leaf profile pick who was quite clear that he didn’t want us all armed!
One theme that ran very strongly through both sides was that all officers should be armed with a Taser. There were quite a few ‘no, but they should all have Taser’ comments. One comment on this theme brings up the point that there is an ignorance in the capabilities of the Taser. I fully agree; there is. As an armed cops, we hear Taser officers being sent to deal with offenders with machetes, large knifes, axes etc. Before I joins Firearms, I carried a Taser and went to these type of incidents.
The Taser is absolutely brilliant when it works. It causes neuromuscular incapacitation to the person, simply meaning that the body cannot control the large muscle groups and they either stiffen completely and fall like a board, or they relax and crumple to the ground. Watch YouTube and you’ll see what I mean.
One limitation to Taser is that it can’t be used at great distances. You need to be relatively close to the subject. How close would you like to be to someone closing you down, possibly running towards you, with a machete? Taser, like any other piece of kit, doesn’t always work due to a few different factors. So, if it doesn’t work and the machete wielding offender is getting even closer, then what do you do?
Another theme running through this poll was that all officers wouldn’t want to be armed. This is very true. I know many officers that have absolutely no desire to carry a firearm to the point where some would leave the job. The Police Service would lose hundreds if not thousands of very good, very experienced officers if they were being forced to be armed. It isn’t for everyone. Some officers have a fear of firearms, the same as some have a fear of dogs, of heights etc. So why should they be made to carry? One person comments along the lines of Cops that want to, should. Cops that don’t, don’t. Quite a few say that not all should be armed, but certainly more should. There has been quite a large increase of armed officers over the last 3 years.
Comments were made suggesting that more officers in specialist units be armed, rather than all officers. This includes officers purely having a pistol/sidearm. The pistol is generally the most difficult weapon to be accurate with. More cops fail to master the pistol over the other firearms that we use. This brings up the training and maintaining your qualification to remain an armed officer. The course that we currently have to pass is not easy, and quite rightly so. Not all officers that start the course, finish it. We have regular training including qualification shoots that we have to pass. You give all officers a gun and you then have to maintain this training and qualification and what would happen if you can’t pass? Are you then made to leave the job?
There was a very good point made that officers carrying a firearm may result in fewer officers being assaulted. This brings me back to Taser. I personally found that having a Taser made people behave a little more. Just tapping the Taser or drawing it from the holster would be enough for most to calm down. Certainly pointing it towards Mr Angry would generally make him more compliant. So yes, I also agree that having a firearm reduces the number of officers being assaulted. On the flip side to that is the very scary thought of having to fight someone off whilst having a gun strapped to your leg! I’ve been there too and it was the most uncomfortable place I’d been. A large group fighting and me and a colleague trying to split them up, fearing that at any time someone might make a grab for my Glock. That will teach me to drive through the city centre drinking area late on a Saturday night!!
Someone commented to say arm city centre cops but maybe not rural. I understand the thinking to this but, as I’ve just said, city centre policing with a gun or guns, especially at night with lots of drunk people, is not a fun place to be. On the whole, I would say that we get few city centre firearm incidents. Mostly our deployments are on or around housing estates or in rural areas.
I said that I would give my answer to the question should all officers be armed. My answer is No. Not all. More of us, yes. This isn’t me being elitist but not all could do this role. Just the same as not everyone could teach, could be a nurse or work in mental health or in care. To ask all police officers to be armed would mean many would leave. To say that all new recruits would be armed may attract some individuals that only join in order to carry a gun and not necessarily because they want to be a cop.
Let’s use the Armed Forces as an example. Not everyone in the army is an infantry soldier. There are departments and specialisms with the armed forces just as it should be in the Police Service.
This is just my humble opinion. I hope I’ve answered some questions and maybe raised a few more. Maybe I’ve swayed some of you either one way or the other from your original thought? It’s certainly a question that will always have two definite sides to it.
This guest blog was written by a frontline police officer who is deployed on armed response vehicles.
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