Police Scotland to send armed officers to more incidents

Firearms officers will be sent to routine incidents such as road crashes and medical emergencies following an overhaul of armed policing.

Armed officers will now be sent to routine incidents such as car accidents
Armed officers will now be sent to routine incidents such as car accidents

Police Scotland is to extend the role of armed response vehicle (ARV) officers, scrapping an earlier commitment only to deploy armed officers to firearms incidents or those where there is a threat to life.

The announcement came as the force confirmed plans to equip 500 extra officers with Tasers after the number of assaults against those on the frontline increased by more than a quarter.

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The overall number of assaults on officers rose from 764 last year to 969 in the year to date, including an increase in the number of knife attacks.

Uniformed officers in local policing divisions will be equipped with Tasers – currently only carried by firearms officers – with the selection process due to begin shortly.

Senior officers have been under increasing pressure from the rank and file to improve the level of protection offered to constables who currently only carry a baton and incapacitant spray.

The decision to reverse the policy on armed officers follows an earlier commitment that they would only be sent to firearms incidents or those where there is a threat to life.

The policy was introduced in October 2014 amid growing controversy over the use of armed officers under previous chief constable Sir Stephen House.

Deputy Chief Constable Johnny Gwynne said the current deployment model was “inefficient” as it prevented highly trained firearms officers being sent to a range of other incidents.

He said: “It does not allow these officers to be sent by the control room to anything other than firearms or threat to life incidents.

“They already respond to things they come across and are sent to other incidents where there’s a threat to life but no firearms are involved. They are trained in advanced emergency first aid and we have many examples of incidents where these officers have assisted, such as at road crashes or medical emergencies where they have been able to get to the scene before an ambulance.

“ARV officers will now support colleagues and the public by responding to a wider range of incidents with an emphasis on public protection, vulnerability and speed of response. They will also support local and national campaigns, such as drink-driving and speed awareness activity.”

He added: “The deployment of these officers will at all times continue to be overseen by specially-trained police inspectors across Scotland. This will ensure they will also remain available to be deployed to firearms and threat-to-life incidents.”

Police Scotland’s earlier policy on armed officer deployment was introduced following mounting criticism over a “standing authority” which allowed a small number of officers to carry guns while on routine patrol.

A survey published by the Scottish Police Federation last month found that nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of officers want “access” to a handgun and 78 per cent are willing to be trained in how to use one.

Ninety-five per cent of respondents said they were prepared to be trained in the use of a Taser and 90 per cent said they would like to have one.