NPCC considers routine arming
Chief officers are considering deploying firearms officers in more rural areas in response to the increased terror threat.
Simon Chesterman, the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) lead for armed policing, has confirmed there have been discussions around some form of routine arming of front-line officers.
"I do understand why police chiefs are looking at this option," says Andrea Breeze, chair of Cleveland Police Federation, "We, like other forces around the country, now increasingly have officers patrolling single-crewed so it would seem that having more of them armed would enable them to respond and handle an incident before any specialist team could reach them."
However, the Federation has expressed concern about where the extra armed officers would come from, since the number trained is still short of the 1,500 target for April this year set by the NPCC in 2016.
And Che Donald, vice chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, says suggestions there are now 25 per cent more firearms officers available don't tell the whole picture and are 'disingenuous'.
Figures released last week stated there are 1,351 additional firearms officers since 2016.
But the Federation says this figure includes non-Home Office forces such as the British Transport Police, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the Ministry of Defence Police. If these are discounted, the total increase for Home Office forces is 874. Che said: "We don't doubt that there has been investment and an increase, but... it does seem as if they are trying to pull the wool over the public's eyes and is rather disingenuous.
"Firearms officers are also not 'additional' officers, but officers who have taken on added responsibilities of carrying a firearm."
The Federation wants to see an increase in trained firearms officers but says more needs to be done to ensure the operating conditions are conducive to the retention of good officers.
"You have to ask why officers seem to be reluctant to fill these roles; but when you consider that when officers discharge their firearms they often face investigations extending beyond 12 months, reducing their ability to be operational, that might may provide some insight. So there is an issue with attracting people in the first place, and then retention with trained officers questioning whether it's worth staying in the job as a result," Che explained.
"This needs to be addressed as these officers provide a crucial role in protecting our society from those who wish to attack it.
"We need an open and honest conversation about arming our police force not those in charge of providing them fudging the figures," he concluded.
The Police Federation has undertaken its own research into the attitude towards routine arming the regional results of which will be published later this year.