Revealed: Police Scotland chief secretly authorises 440 officers to carry handguns during routine patrols across country
THE move by Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House means specialist officers are routinely allowed to carry handguns on duty – even though there may be no threat to them.
Permission was given by Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House without any requirement for approval by politicians.
It means specialist officers are routinely allowed to carry handguns on duty – even though there may be no obvious threat to them or the public.
Previously, firearms officers had to collect weapons from a locked safe in an armed response vehicle under the authorisation of a senior officer.
The arming of officers on routine patrol comes after a row about police being equipped with arms when responding to domestic incidents in the Highlands.
Police Scotland yesterday admitted that their 440 specialist firearms officers are now routinely carrying handguns while on patrol across Scotland.
Yesterday, there was a call for the move by Chief Constable Sir Stephen House to be debated in parliament by senior politicians and lawyers.
Armed response vehicle (ARV) crews are now helping with domestic disputes, missing person inquiries, attempted suicides and even road accidents while armed.
The shock change in policy is despite figures showing that gun crime in Scotland is at its lowest since 1980.
Last year, the number of firearms incidents recorded by police decreased by almost a third from 535 in 2011-12 to 365.
Injuries and deaths from firearms fell from 95 to 66. Guns were involved in one killing in 2012-13 compared with five the previous year.
Attempted murders, serious assaults and robberies involving a firearm also decreased.
We can reveal that ARV crews were used 1355 times in the last year – and in 339 cases, officers were allowed to carry guns.
Chief Superintendent Elaine Ferguson, Divisional Commander Specialist Services, said: “Since the inception of Police Scotland on April 1, 2013, ARV crews have been deployed under a standing authority from the Chief Constable to carry handguns and less lethal weapons while on routine patrol.
“These officers are available 24 hours a day to protect the public across the country and are available to respond to incidents in which the deployment of armed officers is assessed as appropriate.
“These officers also support routine policing duties in local communities, including dealing with anti-social behaviour, disorder, road crime, assisting local divisions and undertaking public reassurance patrols.
“In addition to responding to over 1300 incidents across the Force in 2013-14 in their specialist role, there have been numerous examples where these officers have been instrumental in supporting local communities. For example, in searching for vulnerable missing persons, providing specialist first aid skills to injured persons or engaging with vulnerable or potentially suicidal persons.
“Police Scotland are committed to ensuring that all communities have more equal access to specialist support and national capacity across all areas of the country and officers undertaking this role provide a valuable service in keeping people safe”
Shadow justice spokesman Graeme Pearson MSP, who is a former police chief, said: “This change in the culture of policing needs to be debated by parliament.
“The public also needs to be asked if it is something that they want. It is not just an operational matter for the Chief Constable.
“I am also concerned here at possible safety issues. What happens if a gun goes off or someone is injured when the officer is routinely armed?
“This sort of thing has happened in the USA with tragic consequences.”
John Scott, QC, chair of human rights group Justice Scotland, said: “The Chief Constable should not have done this without consulting Parliament.
“To have armed police officers on the street routinely is quite wrong.
“I can understand that he wants to make the best use of resources.
“I am concerned there could also be an increase of illicit firearms on the street in response.
“There are also safety issues here. What happens if the gun falls into the wrong hands?
“These are specialist firearms officers and should only be used as such.”
Retired Strathclyde Police inspector and author Gerry Gallacher said: “According to the Scottish Government, Mr House has more officers available to him than ever before.
“That being the case, why is there a necessity to have specialised firearms officers back-filling routine calls?
“Would holstered, but visible, handguns on the hip of an officer be more likely to reassure or cause trepidation and alarm? Might it, perhaps, even inflame the situation?
“There have been situations where, during a disturbance, officers have lost control or possession of batons and CS spray. Even if there was only the most remote possibility of that occurring with a firearm, the resulting consequences could be devastating.”
A spokeswoman for Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “The decision where and when to deploy resources is a matter for Police Scotland.
“A single service ensures specialist equipment and expertise can be deployed wherever and whenever required to keep people safe and provide reassurance.
“This approach has ensured that crime is at an almost 40-year low, backed by more than 1000 extra police officers in our communities.”
Unlike Denmark where they are open about the police being armed this is a typical non democratic SNP secret deal.
Unfortunately when seen with a single police force and the refusal of Salmond to answer a FOI on Hollie Greig abuse cover up and the illegal actions of his court you might be a bit more worried.
about the Scottish Soviet Republic of Salmond