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Police Equipment

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Police Federation - Arm The Police Poll

Federation survey shows police struggle in the face of increasing dangers

Police officers are struggling to effectively and safely deliver a 24/7 emergency response to the public in the face of the growing menace of gun and knife attacks and increased assaults.

The results of a Police Federation survey released today at their annual conference show that of 141,000 police officers throughout England and Wales nearly half of those who responded believe their lives have been placed in serious jeopardy on at least one occasion over the last two years.

Over 40% of officers who responded have been assaulted whilst arresting suspects in the last two years; nationally this equates to 56,000 police officers.

Announcing the results Jan Berry, Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: ”With over a third of all police officers in England and Wales responding, this survey highlights the dangers police officers face every day and send a clear message to the Association of Chief Police Officers. Namely, that despite fearing for their lives on more occasions, most police officers throughout the country still do not want to be routinely armed. But chief officers must not continue to fail the men and women who risk their lives every day to protect the communities they serve. They must ensure that there are sufficient numbers of authorised firearms officers to call upon, to deal with the increasing number of gun crimes reported each year and I urge the new Home Secretary to hold chief officers to account on this.”

Arming the Police

The increased terrorist threat, violence and attacks over the last two years have not changed officer’s views on routine arming. 77% reject routine arming of front line officers with 13.8% clearly stating that they would never carry a firearm on duty. Over half of those who stated they would not wish to carry a firearm on duty said they would resign if they were forced to carry a gun.

This emphasises the importance of having high numbers of fully trained and available authorised firearms officers. Chief officers and the Independent Police Complaints Commission must ensure that any post incident investigations are conducted quickly and efficiently to minimise the amount of time these valuable officers are suspended from full duties. With the dangers they face and the lack of support they often receive at the moment is it any wonder that few officers perceive an AFO career to be an attractive option.

The survey also reveals an overwhelming support from frontline officers to see a greater rollout of Taser, with 89% wishing to see its use extended beyond authorised firearms officers only.

Since the 2003 survey was conducted there has been an increase in the numbers of authorised firearms officers from 5763 in 2002/03 to 6243 in 2004/05, but this is still not sufficient. The Police Federation want to see proper, thorough and ongoing risk assessments of the threats to ensure that frontline officers concerns are met. To this end the Federation calls upon Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to include this in their inspections of forces; this may then mean chief officers sit up, take notice and ensure we have sufficient numbers of AFOs.

Greater protection for operational policing

Over half the officers polled support the mandatory wearing of body armour, with 58.4% stating it should be. The Police Federation supports this but the body armour must be fit for purpose, and greater moves must be made to find suitable protection against both the gun and the knife.

Following a Federation name and shame in 2003 of forces that were failing to provide overt body armour, every force now provides this essential protective equipment.

Jan Berry adds: “We have seen an increase in reported violent crime year on year and police officers on the streets are telling us that our resilience and numbers are not enough to properly tackle the increasing number of emergency response calls. This was supported by our research and focus groups of frontline officers conducted earlier in the year.

“With the government focus on delivering neighbourhood policing teams nationally by 2008 I am extremely fearful that our emergency response resilience will be weakened further still.

“Officers should be safe in the knowledge that all has been done to protect their safety – this means appropriate, reliable equipment and sufficient back-up officers should they be required. An assault on a police officer is an assault on society, and sentences for those convicted must reflect the severity of their crime. I trust that every one of the 43 chief officers in England and Wales will sit up and act upon the valuable information in this survey and we look towards the new Home Secretary, the National Police Improvement Agency and the Criminal Justice Inspectorate to hold them to account.”

For the full report please visit the police federation website.

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