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It's Time To Arm The Police

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The romantic image of the unarmed British Bobby must sadly be consigned to the history books. Not because of the tragic assassination of two brave police officers, but because Britain's streets today has terrorists, robbers and drug dealers who are armed to the teeth, and teenagers who regularly carry knives.

None of these dangerous individuals have any fear and most of them do not value life. They will not think twice about shooting or stabbing a police officer who gets in their way, let alone an innocent member of the public.

In the main, it is left to the front-line, unarmed officers to tackle these dangerous criminals on behalf of law-abiding citizens. The fact they are forced to do this with little protection is a terrible indictment of our criminal justice system and also of our society in general. Britain is one of only two countries in Europe - the other being the Republic of Ireland - that does not arm its front-line police officers.

A commissioner said a few years ago that the arming of the police service will be event driven. How many more police officers being assassinated do we need to wake up to the reality that our police service needs to be armed?

Whilst on duty as a police officer in 1985, I was stabbed and almost killed by an armed burglar. It brought home to me the very real dangers faced by those in my profession every day of their careers. I started a campaign called Protect the Protectors which pushed for better protection for officers and I have fought tirelessly for this cause for the past 20 years.

Protect the Protectors was instrumental in the introduction of side-handled batons, CS spray and stab-resistant vests. However, none of these will protect a police officer against a bullet. It is simple: front-line officers are being out-gunned.

There are arguments against arming the police, such as doing so will encourage criminals to arm themselves more regularly. However, there is no evidence to prove this and our stringent firearms laws will still be in place regardless of what protection we afford our police officers.

Another argument is that it will increase the number of controversial shootings by the police. In the past, when all the evidence of these types of shootings is examined, the police officers involved are almost always exonerated. Of course, we would need to trust the police and ensure the right type of person is recruited to the force, but we also know it is extremely rare for an officer to fire their weapon and even rarer that they get it wrong.

Police officers have the right to be afforded any and every protection they need to take on dangerous criminals so when faced by dangerous individuals they have a chance to protect the public and themselves, and go home to their families at the end of each shift.

Police officers do not want to carry guns, but many know they need to be to armed in order to carry out their duties in 21st century Britain. I am not passionate about arming the police, but sadly I know it has long been a necessity.

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