Chief Constable Sir Stephen House has approved the recommendation of the Armed Policing Monitoring Group that the national standing firearms authority should continue. In addition, having listened to concerns expressed by politicians and some members of the public and having assessed the current operational challenges faced by Police Scotland, the Chief Constable has directed that firearms officers attached to Armed Response Vehicles will now only be deployed to firearms incidents or where there is a threat to life.
Police Scotland’s Armed Policing Monitoring Group met on September 16 and reviewed updated intelligence and information including evidence on legally held firearms in Scotland, classified information on serious organised crime groups which operate across the country and the number of firearms deployments between April and August.
The Chief Constable’s decision took into consideration the concerns voiced by politicians and some members of the public and in response a working group has been established to review the types of carriage for both sidearms and Tasers and the deployment of Armed Response Vehicle Officers when not deployed to firearm incidents. This group will submit a preliminary report to the next meeting of the APMG in January 2015.
Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, Crime and Operational Support, said:
“Protecting the public and ensuring that all communities have the same access to specialist policing support, no matter where or when the need it is at the heart of this decision. We have balanced our overriding duty to keep people safe with consideration of the views expressed about the perception of armed officers supporting local policing activities.
“Having a small number of armed police officers available means we can retain our operational flexibility and ensure that more than 98% of our officers remain unarmed but we remain best placed to support the public when the need arises. The public would expect nothing less.
“The threat of firearms and other serious criminality does not discriminate between the city or the town and the rural community or indeed the Highlands and the Borders. Just last week our armed officers were deployed to a number of high-profile incidents that occurred in 10 out of our 14 Local Policing Divisions including those believed to be the most remote and the safest across Scotland.
“The Chief Constable recognised the concerns expressed about the deployment of armed officers. As an organisation we acknowledge the local feeling from politicians and some members of the public, as evidenced by the feedback from several local authorities. We have listened to those concerns and this has resulted in the Chief Constable’s announcement today.
“We welcome the ongoing reviews by HMICS and the Scottish Police Authority and we will consider carefully the findings of these reviews in the context of taking forward our recommendations.
“The decision to continue with a small number of armed officers dedicated to specialist firearms duties is entirely proportionate and necessary and ensures we discharge our duty to keep people safe.”
Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman, ACPO lead Armed Policing, said:
“Whilst the establishment of a standing firearms authority is an operational matter for the Chief Constable of Police Scotland, as the Armed Policing lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers I am invited to all meetings of the Police Scotland Armed Policing Monitoring Group and attended the meeting on 16 September 2014.
“I was able to confirm to the group that similar standing authorities, based upon informed Strategic Threat and Risk Assessments, are in place within almost every Police Force in England and Wales. The information provided to this meeting was appropriate and relevant to allow an informed decision to be made and based on my understanding of the prevailing threat and risk I consider the arrangements instigated within Police Scotland to be both proportionate and necessary.”