The chief constable of Police Scotland has said the decision to deploy armed officers to routine calls is a “success” after it emerged they attended more than 7,000 such incidents in the past year.
The role of Armed Response Vehicle (ARV) officers was extended last May, overturning an earlier commitment only to deploy armed officers to firearms incidents or those where there was a threat to life.
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said armed officers had attended more than 4,400 firearms-related incidents alongside more than 7,000 “conventional” deployments for incidents such as missing person inquiries and road traffic accidents. And he said there were calls from armed officers to attend more routine incidents.
In an update to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), Mr Livingstone said: “It appears that qualitative and quantitative evidence suggests the Armed Policing Deployment Model (ADPM) changes have been a success.
“The only negative theme is an internal one, with ARV officers wanting to attend more incidents and see a consistent approach taken by Initial Tactical Firearms Commanders across teams and between control rooms.”
The decision to reverse the policy on armed officers followed an earlier pledge that they would only be sent to firearms incidents or those where there was a threat to life. The policy was introduced in October 2014 amid growing controversy over the use of armed officers under then chief constable Sir Stephen House.
Earlier this month, 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.
Ms Denham told MSPs in the Scottish Parliament that the SPA is keeping the policy under review.
Police Scotland responds to around 1.8 million incidents every year. The latest figures on armed deployments show there were 531 firearms operations and 4,413 firearms-related incidents.
Among 7,637 conventional deployments, there were 1,895 incidents when assistance was provided to a vulnerable person and 1,110 road traffic incidents attended.
Armed officers made a total of 413 arrests and issued 135 Fixed Penalty Notices.
Police Scotland changed its deployment model last year amid a heightened security threat and increased concern about unarmed officers attending violent incidents.
Following the force’s formation in 2013, Sir Stephen caused controversy over the introduction of a “standing authority” which allowed a small number of officers to carry guns while on routine patrol.