Police chief asks for '˜cool heads' over call to arm officers

Chief Constable Phil Gormley talks to officers with Tasers outside the Scottish Parliament. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Chief Constable Phil Gormley has appealed for “warm hearts and cool heads” amid calls from his own officers for greater numbers of them to be armed.

Scotland’s most senior police officer appeared alongside justice secretary Michael Matheson at the Scottish Police Federation’s conference, where both men ruled out a completely armed service.

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It came in response to calls from officers who argue they are “ill-equipped” to meet the challenge of terrorism and violent crime.

Armed policing has once again come to the fore following the murder of Pc Keith Palmer during last week’s terrorist attack at Westminster.

Mr Gormley said the number of armed officers would be kept under review and that officers carrying Tasers would become a “routine feature” of security at the Scottish Parliament.

He said Police Scotland’s reaction to last week’s attack showed his force had one of the best firearms responses of any force in the UK.

Responding to a series of questions from his own officers about whether they have the necessary level of protection, he said: “This is a moment for warm hearts when we think about our colleagues that are doing these jobs for us and cool heads in terms of how we respond in the appropriate way. I don’t rule anything in or out because the world will continue to change around us. We will keep this under review.”

He added: “Do I think we’re at the point where we need to routinely arm all officers in Scotland? No, I don’t.”

Mr Matheson told delegates the wider public did not support a fully armed service.

He said: “The public want to know that Police Scotland has an appropriate armed policing capability, not necessarily an armed police service. In my view, we have that balance right.”

The justice secretary and chief constable were taking part in a question and answer session with officers at the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) conference yesterday.

Last year Police Scotland announced plans to increase its number of armed officers by a third following terror attacks in Europe. Once training is complete, the force will have around 400 Armed Response Vehicle officers.

Elsewhere yesterday, SPF chair Andrea MacDonald warned the “thin blue line is being stretched to breaking point”.