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Home Office report reveals more than 20,000 operations and just 13 'trigger' deployments.

Firearms operations: Up by seven per cent to more than 20,000

Firearms operations: Up by seven per cent to more than 20,000

Date - 25th July 2019
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle
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Increases in armed officers and operations to a rising tide of violent crime has been met with an implacable “professional” response in the discharge of firearms, policing claims.

Police firearms operations in England and Wales rose by seven per cent to 20,186 in a year to March 2019 when armed deployments involving “pulling the trigger” numbered just 13, or 0.06 per cent

That figure went up from eight in the previous 12 months, and the highest number since the current recording system began in 2008-09.

But the Home Office report, released on Thursday, states the number of incidents does not reflect the number of firearms or the number of shots that were fired.

"The use of firearms by police is expected to be a last resort, considered only where there is a serious risk to public or police safety," it says.

Two in five of the total firearms operations in England and Wales in 2018-19 were carried out by the biggest two forces – Scotland Yard and West Midlands Police.

Of the 20,186 operations, 88 per cent – 17,742 – involved an armed response vehicle, the highest proportion since the year ending March 2009.

This continues an upwards trend seen since the Armed Uplift Programme began to invest in more armed officers and increased ARV coverage in the highest priority areas.

Since the Home Office introduced a £143 million programme in 2016, forces have increased their total number of firearms’ officers by 1,014 to a total of 6,653 – and a rise of three per cent (194 officers) compared with a year earlier.

The number of ARVs available to protect the public in England and Wales has also increased by more than a quarter, meaning forces are able to respond to major incidents such as terrorist attacks faster and with greater numbers.

This is bolstered by a 63 per cent increase in the number of the highest-trained counter terrorism specialist firearms officers, who are taken from the ARV ranks and given additional training.

"This increase in armed officers means we are better prepared to not only meet the threat from armed criminality and terrorism, but also help to tackle recent increases in violent crime," said Chief Constable Simon Chesterman, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for armed policing.

He added: “Just last week, West Midlands Police released body-worn video footage of an armed operation which exemplifies the outstanding work our officers do to remove deadly weapons from our towns and cities and arrest those responsible for taking them onto the streets.

"But despite being more prepared than ever to protect the public, discharging our weapons is always a last resort.

“I'm proud to see that despite more than 20,000 operations, there were only 13 occasions when our officers were required to pull the trigger.”

The Civil Nuclear Constabulary chief went on: "A mark of the quality of training that armed officers receive is how infrequently they have to use their weapons, and it is a testament to the professionalism of our armed officers that only 0.06 per cent of armed deployments end with a firearm actually being discharged."

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