Police to reveiew role of firearms officers over ‘routine’ call-outs

Armed police officers on patrol. Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Armed police officers on patrol. Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
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Police bosses are to look into the policy of sending armed officer to routine call-outs as reports reveal 5,000 firearms officers attended call-outs.

But the Scottish Government’s community safety minister Ash Denham insisted that armed police are not “routinely” sent to everyday incidents and their attendance is proportionate.

Scotland’s firearms officers attended 5,250 incidents that did not require an armed response, figures obtained by the BBC yesterday revealed.

Ms Denham revelaed that the Scottish Police Aaithority (SPA) is keeping the policy under review and will discuss the issue at their board meeting later this month.

A change in approach last May saw armed officers deployed to more call-outs of a more routine nature where speed and response and vulnerability were key issues.

Ms Denham MSP said it was a “sensible use of police time”.

But she added; “I spoke today to the chair of the SPA and was informed that the SPA board members had already planned to consider that first year of the revised deployment at its next board meeting later this month.”

Officers in armed response vehicles also helped find more than 3,500 missing or vulnerable people since their role was extended last May, as well as providing medical assistance at over 600 incidents.

Ms Denhamadded: “These changes have allowed armed officers to utilise their core policing skills and attend incidents where speed of response or vulnerability was a key factor.

“The incidents refer to equate to around 0.3% of the total number of police incidents Police Scotland officers attend each year.”

They have also dealt with more than 1,000 road traffic matters including collisions, speeding and drink-driving offences, according to Police Scotland.

The force respond to approximately 1.8 million incidents each year.

Chief Superintendent Matt Richards, commander of Police Scotland’s Specialist Services Division, told BBC Scotland’s The Nine: “Our armed response officers are extremely highly trained.

“Overall, they’re providing a higher level of service - and more quickly - to the public.”

Mr Richards added that the use of firearms is always a “last resort”, saying that in his experience even the presence of a Taser had “caused a huge drop in violence and, in particular, injuries to the public”.

Firearms officers are equipped with a handgun and Taser, which they carry while attending routine incidents.