Wednesday, 13 January 2016

My Sergeant Shot Me

So, we're back on the subject of increasing the UK's armed police officers.

Guardian: Met Police adds 600 armed officers

I really do think Met Police senior managers are glad for the relief provided whenever an issue like this arises. They get a little respite from the criticism and constant embarrassments of target culture, figure fiddling...and so many other avoidable problems that I can't be bothered to list.

Anyway, Sir Bernard is riding the tide of media opinion by creating more armed officers. But hang on, until 2012 didn't we already have a thousand more armed cops than at present?

Which, according to the article linked to above, means that we're now going to spend £25million that we wouldn't have had to spend if Sir Bernard hadn't decided to penny-pinch in 2012.

Those firearms officers we 'lost' those after the Olympics: what happened?

The moment the event finished, the Met's reserve of local firearms officers were thanked for working 100-hour weeks, then disbanded.

The Met had spent millions training those officers, and maintaining their proficiency, only to discard them. And now Sir Bernard is talking about creating more firearms officers...

Well we probably do need more armed cops, yes, but it might be nice if they were allowed to perform their jobs without the certain knowledge that they will be arrested for murder the moment they make that critical decision to shoot a suspect.

Their split-second decisions will then be picked apart very carefully, over months and years, by barristers earning hundreds of thousands of pounds for the privilege.

But for a change, let's talk about another question:

Should all British police officers be armed? This question keeps cropping up.

“Do you know why we aren't routinely armed?” asked my first Officer Safety instructor, back in the county force where I began my police career. We were in the gym and had just finished handcuffing drills.

“How many of you have used your spray?” Most of us raised our hands.

“And has anybody used his spray and not accidentally sprayed a colleague in the face?”

We all lowered our hands. Everybody had managed, at some point during a scuffle, to give a friend a dose of chemical in face.

“That my friends,” he said, “is why we are not routinely armed...”

I'm not trying to argue in favour or against, as I don't know how it works in nations where cops are routinely armed. I simply want to present some points that, as is normal, are omitted from the usual emotion-charged newspaper articles.

I was recently talking to a detective about his time in the Flying Squad many years ago.

“We kept our pistols in our desk drawers. It was a good time in my career.”

I asked him why he left the Flying Squad.

“My sergeant shot me.”

The sergeant had been playing with his pistol which had turned out to be loaded. The bullet had bounced off the ground and gone through his leg.

Admittedly some cops are simply infantile idiots who act without thinking, who believe they're still in the school playground. But this happens in any workplace.

Training an officer to handle a firearm takes weeks and costs a lot of money. Half the Met's firing ranges have been closed in recent years, to save money. It would take 5-10 years to train up every constable in London, never mind the rest of the UK.

Many would not want to carry a pistol, and some would not be capable of passing the course, which is extremely hard work and very challenging.

If politicians apply pressure to create more armed cops, of course our senior managers, like Sir Bernard, will give in and make it happen, whatever it takes. It seems likely that recruiting 600 more will be achieved in the normal way - by lowering the standards.

In the same way that the fitness test now consists of reaching level 5.4 on the bleep test – effectively a gentle jog. There are now no tests for strength. Those might exclude women, and...well, anybody with insufficient strength to pass the test.

And if the decision is someday taken to arm every bobby, I for one do not want to be shot by my manager.

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- Justice and Chaos