Police Scotland extends role of armed officers

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Armed officers will be sent to more incidents from next month, Police Scotland has confirmed.

The force was warned of the dangers of armed police becoming the default on the streets as it said the role of Armed Response Vehicle (ARV) officers would be extended.

Armed officers will be sent to more incidents from next month. Picture: John Devlin

Armed officers will be sent to more incidents from next month. Picture: John Devlin

Currently these officers respond only to incidents involving firearms or threat to life, or anything they come across on patrol.

The rule was brought in in 2014 after concerns were raised about police carrying weapons on routine duties.

Changes coming into effect on May 7 mean ARV officers can be deployed to incidents where speed of response or vulnerability is an issue, and they are closest to the scene.

Assistant Chief Constable Nelson Telfer said the current deployment model was “inefficient”.

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 incidents 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.

“Where appropriate, they will also support local and national campaigns, such as drink driving.

“The deployment of these officers will at all times continue to be overseen by specially-trained police inspectors across Scotland.

“This will ensure that they will also remain available to be deployed to firearms and threat-to-life incidents.”

He said in the past the force had “not engaged as well as we could have” regarding armed forces deployment decisions and has learned lessons from this, carrying out extensive engagement.

The force created an extra 99 ARV officers between June 2016 and the following November.

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said: “With ongoing threats including terrorism, nobody is suggesting Police Scotland shouldn’t be capable of responding quickly to such situations.

“But officers and the public they serve are rightly proud of the ability of the police to do their jobs day in, day out without carrying guns.

“There needs to be sensible guidelines in place to ensure that armed officers on our streets do not become the default.”