Rural police officers could be armed

Front-line officers in harder-to-reach rural communities could be routinely armed to deal with the threat of a terrorist attack, police chiefs have suggested.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council said it was committed to its model of policing with a routinely unarmed service provided by officers at its core.

But it said the right level of armed policing was needed to meet threats to the public.

Deputy chief constable Simon Chesterman, the council's lead officer for armed policing, said most of England and Wales had very good coverage from armed response vehicles.

But he added: “We are continuing to review and discuss options with some forces with harder to reach rural communities, including arming of some response officers.”

"Any change would decided by chief constables based on threat and risk and with wide consultation, said Mr Chesterman.

“Our analysis suggests this is not necessary now but it remains an option on the table.

“Overall, though, forces are now better equipped to respond swiftly to serious threats to public safety, such as the recent terror attacks.”

The number of firearms officers ready to protect the public in England and Wales has risen by 1351 since April 2016, according to government figures.

In the two years since the Home Office announced a £143mm programme to increase policing’s firearms capability, there has been an 874 increase in the number of firearms officers.

These so-called Home Office officers are based in areas considered to be at greatest threat or with geographical challenges.

There has also been a further 477 increase in non-Home Office forces such as the British Transport Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary and Ministry of Defence Police.

As a result, the number of armed response vehicles (ARV) available to protect the public in England and Wales has increased by more than 25%.

But armed policing remains a voluntary role and the recruitment, training and retention of officers remains a challenge for all forces.

“How we treat firearms officers in the rare instance that they discharge their weapon does influence the willingness of people to take up this role,” said Mr Chesterman.

He added: “They naturally have concerns about the impact it can have on the welfare of themselves and their families.”


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