The dreadful murders of PCs Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone in Manchester have, understandably, caused some people to question whether Police in the UK should be routinely armed. I do not think they should be armed.
I should state clearly that I am not a Police Officer anymore and no longer face the challenges and the dangers of the job and serving Officers are entitled to their own view on this issue since they still have to go to calls not really knowing what hazards they may face.
But it seems that even serving Officers are usually against being armed - a survey in 1995 of serving officers found that 79 per cent were against the routine arming of Police and I suspect that even now the majority of them would not want to carry a gun.
Arming all Police Officers would bring many problems. There are around 100,000 Officers in the UK - obviously not all would carry guns but let's say we had 10,000 Officers routinely carrying a gun - that's an extra 10,000 firearms on UK streets with all the dangers that would bring.
As good as any training might be Officers would make mistakes - people would be shot - accidents would happen. We have all heard of incidents where the use of firearms by Police has been questioned even under the current arrangements where only specialist Officers are armed.
Officers would have to be cautious in every situation they dealt with that someone did not try to take their gun - each incident, however small, could potentially become a firearms incidents if an Officer has a gun taken from him or her.
Not all Officers would have an aptitude for handling a firearm - I am not sure I would have been a natural - to say the least.
Even if all Officers were armed - it does not mean you could draw and use gun in time to save injury or death since very often the harm is done before the Officers can react - it looks like that in the case of PCs Hughes and Bone. Would being armed have actually helped them if they thought they were dealing with a 'routine' burglary call?
Would PC David Rathbone have had time to use a firearm when he was attacked by Raoul Moat whilst he sat in his patrol car?
If we sent out thousands of Officers with firearms more of them would be put in situations where they have to decide to use them or not - late at night when they are tired when something in some ones hand might be a gun or might not be. This would surely lead to more people being shot even with the bets of training!
Most Officers in most Police areas do not routinely face people with firearms - I was involved in the arrest of only one man with a gun in 23 years in West London and he (thank fully) did not use it - declaring 'I don't shoot Police' - a good policy in my book. I should add that he was arrested for another offence and there was no evidence he was armed until he was searched - being armed would not have helped us had he had a different policy!
Other Officers work in areas where criminals do carry and use guns and they are entitled to their opinion and it might well differ from mine - especially since I am safely retired.
What would the effect be on the relationship between the public and Police if Officer were armed - nothing good I suspect. I don't see much evidence of Police in other countries carrying guns bringing them closer to the people they serve.
There are some dreadful and violent men in our society but we should not let them win - we should not change the way Policing is done in this country because of their dreadful violence.
These two young Officers were bravely going about their business - trying to prevent crime and arrest offenders. Their colleagues will have to continue doing that today in spite of what has happened. Courage comes in many forms - sometimes it means just carrying on as normal when something terrible has happened and not reacting to the sickness of a tiny minority to the detriment of everybody.