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Chief Rat

PFEW: Arming police debated on BBC's 'The Big Questions'

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Chief Rat

20 February 2017

Steve White

Public debate on arming British police officers continued over the weekend when Steve White, Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, joined panellists and members of the public to discuss the issue on BBC One’s ‘The Big Questions’.

Steve joined the Programme Director of Amnesty International Scotland, Naomi McAuliffe, former police officer turned author Mike Pannett and Scotland Editor of the Spectator and columnist for the Times, Alex Massie, to discuss topics including training, increasing threats and Taser.

Naomi McAuliffe began the debate by challenging the standard of training that could be delivered and maintained if more and more had to be armed with either a firearm of Taser.

Steve White rebutted the fact that training would be compromised; making it clear that Taser training for police officers in the UK is some of the most stringent in the world and goes beyond simply a three day course. Whilst this addresses the practical use of the equipment the fact is officers are constantly being trained on decision making which is key for choosing when to use the device.

Mike Pannett, a former police officer in both the Metropolitan and North Yorkshire forces, outlined how the reality is that the UK currently faces a very real threat from terrorism. In order to help mitigate this threat officers need the right equipment available, a sentiment fully supported by the Police Federation of England and Wales.

In a recent national survey of officers and a separate survey of Metropolitan police officers, there was significant support for the availability of Taser from those who responded, 82% and 75% respectively. A public survey in December 2016 further outlined support for the device with 71% of respondents considering it acceptable for police officers to carry Taser when on patrol. A welfare survey of officers across England and Wales in 2016 also outlined officer’s desire for increased double-crewing and further availability of body worn video.

Ewan Aitken, Chief Executive of Cyrenians, a Scottish charity supporting people excluded from family, work or community, believes it should be about how police deal with conflict rather than react to it.

Alex Massie, Scotland Editor of the Spectator and columnist for the Times, felt that routinely arming police encourages the escalation of situations so that force is used.

Steve White made it clear that losing close to 22,000 officers since 2009 has meant that there are fewer officers proactively patrolling our streets than ever before, forcing them into a position where they are being purely reactive. Because of this they need the equipment to deal with the dangerous situations they respond to as they don’t always have the time to wait for specialist support.

Importantly, becoming a firearms officer or carrying a Taser is a choice. It’s not one officers make lightly understanding the rigorous process of selection and training as well as the scrutiny faced when they discharge their weapon.

Finally, the panel discussed the disproportionate use of Taser against BME members of the community with Naomi McAuliffe believing levels of trust in policing is very different across varying communities.

Catch up on the programme through the BBC iPlayer.

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Growley

I don't see this idea that arming cops encourages escalation of situations; if force needs to be used, we use it regardless of whether or not we're armed.


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Growley

Double post

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JulietAlpha1

That whole discussion was a waste of time and this debate will never be resolved, an outcome will never be agreed on. Police officers will continue saying, "We need more firearms and tasers," and members of the public, with frankly no credentials, will keep shouting, "No" as loud as they can until we back down. When I say 'we' I mean SLT.

If we tried to bring in body armour, CS and batons now there would be uproar in much the same way, I don't doubt. 'You'll look too aggressive.' 'You'll look like you're expecting to use force.' 'You won't be as approachable.' The same arguments can be applied to every change police try to make. If we went to work tomorrow and there was a box of Glocks and a box of Tasers and a box of body-cams on the table in parade and we all kitted up and went out on patrol, half the population wouldn't notice, some would agree that it was about time, and some would be in up in arms. And then, if the SLT ignored them, everybody would get used to it, just as they get used to everything else we implement.

I genuinely don't understand why those panellists were selected, other that for the fact that they would disagree with everything Steve White and Mike Pannett said. Good on the two members of the public that said, "If the police say they need more guns maybe we should trust them." And, "When I was a volunteer at the Commonwealth games and I saw armed officers everywhere, to start with I was scared. But then I felt safe because they were there to protect me."

And then there's Naomi McAuliffe saying, "If we increase the amount of armed/taser officers, we'll increase the range of situations that they're able to deploy their firearms/tasers in." What nonsense. There's absolutely no basis for what she said, but she's on national television saying it.

A number of other anti-gun comments made during the programme:

- I don't want to see police with guns in high density places like airports. Why would it make me feel safer to think that they might start shooting with all those people around? What an absolutely narrow sighted and ignorant thing to say. It shows a glaring lack of understanding about the current terrorism threats and the likelihood of an attack taking place in these highly populated areas. The police are there to stop the people who come to these places to harm the public, not to start mindlessly shooting bullets into a crowd.

- If we increase the quantity of firearms/taser officers we will be unable to cope with the training requirements and the standards will slip. This is a valid point in my opinion. There will be struggles to maintain the levels or training and re-quals without sufficient forward planning.

- The classic 'our police has it's history in 200 years of unarmed policing' 'police officers will be less approachable if they're armed or carrying taser.' This idea that a police officer does nothing but wander around town centres exchanging pleasantries with everybody and knowing them by name is long gone. Was it ever anything but fantasy? Officers are running from call to call, dealing with violent individuals who have no qualms about using weapons, vehicles or infectious diseases to harm the public, escape justice or even maliciously injure/infect officers purely out of malevolence. To stop officers being equipped to deal with their day job because it offends the sensitivities of these middle-class lefties that have never been assaulted or really put in fear of anything is absolutely ridiculous. One of the commenters actually seemed concerned to speak to a police officer who was carrying a weapon - should the officer decide to use it on him. Why would that be a consideration? A police officer is not going to randomly turn their gun on the public. These people watch too many films - and I don't even know which films.

That programme absolutely made my blood boil. And to clarify, I used the term 'middle-class lefties' not as an insult, but simply because I feel it sufficiently describes the type of people that were making these obsolete arguments in the discussion. I consider myself to be moderate-left in many topics, but not law and order. My simple suggestion would be to offer all of these prominent opinion-offerers a use of force awareness session and that might change their opinion. I've seen a few that have been done in the USA with journalists and activists and I've yet to see one where the outcome doesn't involve the participants acknowledging the difficulties of managing conflict and having a new respect for law enforcement.

As has been said somewhere else on this forum, the majority of the general public do not know what what police officers deal with and would be shocked if they did. I feel that while the opinion of the public is important and should be considered, unless these opinions have experience or evidence to support them then they should not carry much weight and should not be defining.

4 hours ago, Growley said:

I don't see this idea that arming cops encourages escalation of situations; if force needs to be used, we use it regardless of whether or not we're armed.

Me neither. The idea that we should take the options away from officers so that they can concentrate on talking the offender down is folly. Some people simply cannot be talked down whether out of desperation, mental health or whatever. If a person threatens a police officer with a weapon, the police officer needs to be able to negate the threat - dare I suggest - without running away from it. I think even if we did increase firearms and taser, it doesn't mean we will begin pulling weapons at every call without tac comms first. It's not how we work. But it is important that officers have the tactical options.

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HazRat

I've just watched the programme in question. I whole heartedly agree with JulietAlpha1.

I'm of the opinion that we could rollout Taser further without degrading standards. I'm willing to bet with a few changes, a personal safety course could be delivered over 3 days covering use of force and tactics with CS/OC/Pava, cuffs, baton and taser.

Taser won't solve all of our problems, but it's another tactical option when dealing with an incident. At the moment the availability of Taser varies between forces which is unhelpful (although trying to deal with 42 force beast is a hiding to nowhere).

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Growley
11 hours ago, HazRat said:

I'm willing to bet with a few changes, a personal safety course could be delivered over 3 days covering use of force and tactics with CS/OC/Pava, cuffs, baton and taser.

Do you mean for existing officers who already hold spray, cuffs and baton as existing skills, or for new people to learn all of it from the start? Because the latter sounds pretty much impossible for the majority of people.

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HazRat

I'd forgotten about new starters, but it shouldn't be that difficult to build it into their foundation OST. Oh hang on, I've seen a few new recruits ;-)

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Growley
I'd forgotten about new starters, but it shouldn't be that difficult to build it into their foundation OST. Oh hang on, I've seen a few new recruits ;-)

I have no doubt it could, even should, be built into their foundation course, but it'd take a fair bit longer than three days. Then again, I think our initial training should be a hell of a lot more inclusive than it currently is anyway. I also think there should realistically be a chance of failing it. I've only ever heard of one person being asked if they're sure this is for them after their red man scenario; never heard of anyone failing it.

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JulietAlpha1
2 hours ago, Growley said:


I have no doubt it could, even should, be built into their foundation course, but it'd take a fair bit longer than three days. Then again, I think our initial training should be a hell of a lot more inclusive than it currently is anyway. I also think there should realistically be a chance of failing it. I've only ever heard of one person being asked if they're sure this is for them after their red man scenario; never heard of anyone failing it.

They could include PNC, fast roads and a load of other things that it'd be useful to have at the start of your service rather than having to fight tooth and nail to get them. Things that are no biggy but just allow you to get on with the day job.

17 hours ago, HazRat said:

I'm of the opinion that we could rollout Taser further without degrading standards. I'm willing to bet with a few changes, a personal safety course could be delivered over 3 days covering use of force and tactics with CS/OC/Pava, cuffs, baton and taser.

This is a fantastic idea. You could have a day of drills - handcuffing, CS, baton, taser, basic unarmed restraints - to certify competence. Then a day of legislation, use and best practice with an emphasis on justification (I have yet to see a 'perfect' example of use of force notes. Despite trainers constantly going on about it. I'm starting to think it doesn't exist.) And then the third day could be a series of stress/judgment situations where you enter the scenario and deal with it from an officer safety point of view. This could range from angry man to compliant traffic stop.  It could also include variables such as weapons, petrol, risk factors, operational support (waiting for backup/there is no backup).

I genuinely feel that this is a very good idea and I hope you like my suggestion for the structure and there may be something to be gained by suggesting it to someone (I don't know who...) There's definitely nothing to lose.

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Growley
43 minutes ago, JulietAlpha1 said:

They could include PNC, fast roads and a load of other things that it'd be useful to have at the start of your service rather than having to fight tooth and nail to get them. Things that are no biggy but just allow you to get on with the day job.

PNC in particular is pretty much a necessity. You either have it, or you constantly pester people who do. I've heard of a few county forces including the training in the foundation course and it sounds dangerously like common sense.

43 minutes ago, JulietAlpha1 said:

This is a fantastic idea. You could have a day of drills - handcuffing, CS, baton, taser, basic unarmed restraints - to certify competence. Then a day of legislation, use and best practice with an emphasis on justification (I have yet to see a 'perfect' example of use of force notes. Despite trainers constantly going on about it. I'm starting to think it doesn't exist.) And then the third day could be a series of stress/judgment situations where you enter the scenario and deal with it from an officer safety point of view. This could range from angry man to compliant traffic stop.  It could also include variables such as weapons, petrol, risk factors, operational support (waiting for backup/there is no backup).

I genuinely feel that this is a very good idea and I hope you like my suggestion for the structure and there may be something to be gained by suggesting it to someone (I don't know who...) There's definitely nothing to lose.

Have you done the taser course, out of interest? I only ask because the classification used to be on the first day, but around 25% of people would fail it (according to instructors). Apparently since they put it  back to day two the pass rate has gone up a fair bit. 'A day of drills... to certify competence' is only remotely plausible if you're already trained in all of those areas, not if you're trying to train people to do the taser classification drills from scratch. I know an example has been posted in this thread of a two day instructor course being offered in the US, but I do wonder how much they actually make you do in classification. Getting the 'miss' drill alone into muscle memory can take a fair bit of practice, and that's only one area of competence.

 

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JulietAlpha1
5 minutes ago, Growley said:

PNC in particular is pretty much a necessity. You either have it, or you constantly pester people who do. I've heard of a few county forces including the training in the foundation course and it sounds dangerously like common sense.

Have you done the taser course, out of interest? I only ask because the classification used to be on the first day, but around 25% of people would fail it (according to instructors). Apparently since they put it  back to day two the pass rate has gone up a fair bit. 'A day of drills... to certify competence' is only remotely plausible if you're already trained in all of those areas, not if you're trying to train people to do the taser classification drills from scratch. I know an example has been posted in this thread of a two day instructor course being offered in the US, but I do wonder how much they actually make you do in classification. Getting the 'miss' drill alone into muscle memory can take a fair bit of practice, and that's only one area of competence.

 

I meant it more as a yearly refresher rather than an initial training course.

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Growley
9 minutes ago, JulietAlpha1 said:

I meant it more as a yearly refresher rather than an initial training course.

In that case surely it's better to just do the existing 2 days to cover OST and Taser separately?

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JulietAlpha1
18 minutes ago, Growley said:

In that case surely it's better to just do the existing 2 days to cover OST and Taser separately?

I would've thought 3 days which covers the whole officer safety spectrum rather than two days separated by six months with no taser and one day a year which is all taser. Just my opinion. It's never going to happen anyway, they'd never be able to organise three day training courses for entire teams.

And no, I haven't done the taser course yet, but soon hopefully.

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