There has been a bit of debate recently about whether or not the UK Police should be routinely armed with guns. I know people who sit on both sides of the argument (both sides have very good reasons). After all, it only takes one trigger happy idiot in a Police Unform to bring the entire Police Service into disrepute. Just ask the United States of America.
However, my opinion of Police and guns is a little different. Given a choice between a country where the Police are only armed with the most basic equipment (as well as those Tasers which - if you ask me - should be banned) and a country which routinely arms their officers with Pistols - I feel much safer in the country which routinely arms their officers with pistols.
Please note - I did not say "I would feel safer" - I said "I feel safer".
I suppose it might help if I explained a bit about how I found myself up close and personal with a Police Officer who was armed with a (holstered) pistol???
Elsewhere on my blog I have written about one of my Mum's cousins who was a Dutch Police Officer (he has now retired). Let's just say that me not recognising him the first time I ever saw him in uniform led me to believe that he was about to deport me until my Mum identified him to me.
When I had got over the shock (and panic) I went over to say hello to him. At that point Dutch Police Officers had two distinct uniforms - black uniform was reserved for "Transport" (usually found loitering in and around railway stations, etc) and blue uniform was your common or garden Police Officer. Leen was in a blue uniform.
Nowadays the Dutch "Street" Police have a uniform which makes them look scruffier than the modern UK uniforms. However, at least the Dutch Officers have nice bright markings on their tops that even I cannot miss from a distance.
I noticed Leen's gun in his holster and I must have asked if it was loaded (yes - I know - stupid question) to which - after Mum had translated - he replied (in Dutch) "very loaded".
Once you get used to the idea that - as long as you obey the law - the Police will have no reason to shoot you, you very quickly get used to wandering around among them.
I know that there are people who say that if the UK Police were routinely armed they would have been able to prevent the Leystonstowe knife attack from happening. I wou;d say that the Police were the wrong Agency to deal with him in the first place (as Inspector Michael Brown - who tweets under the name of @MentalHealthCop - wrote on his blog the correct hashtag should not have been "You AintNoMuslimBruv" but "YouIsAPoorlyMuslimBruv" because of apparent Mental Health Issues) but that is for better minds than mine to discuss.
One incident which comes to mind when I think about the question of "Should the UK Police be routinely armed with pistols?" is one which didn't get as much coverage as it should have in the UK. I say that because of it's similarities with an incident which took place a couple of decades ago during a live news broadcast in the UK.
I don't know if my UK-based readers would remember but there was one BBC News I think it was the 6 o'clock news) broadcast where the studio was occupied by some demonstrators (who were unarmed) who kept shouting and disrupting the live broadcast.
Almost the same thing happened a few months ago in a studio in Holland. A man tried to disrupt a news broadcast by the Dutch State News Broadcaster (NOS). By sheer fluke he picked the wrong studio. The first thing I heard about it was a clip on YouTube showing a pack of Dutch Policemen - weapons drawn - storming the studio.
If the same thing had happened in the UK (and the Police were told the suspect was armed) I think we would have a bit of a long wait before the AK47's (with accompanying Police Officers) rolled up.
One of the Twittercops I follow is an officer who tweets as Nathan Constable. He is one of the Officers who you will find at scenes ordering the guns (armed police) around. He disagrees with me on whether Police Officers should be routinely armed - for one very good reason.
Nathan has taught me a bit about what being a Firearms Commander involves. Basically - if the decision to call in the Firearms Squad either is not cleared by someone higher up the "Food Chain" or something (Heaven forbid) goes wrong - the Firearms Commander can get into very serious trouble indeed.
I am not sure what the rules are regarding on what grounds Dutch Police Officers are allowed to fire their weapons - but a couple of them have found themselves in Court as a result.
What I am trying to say is - whilst I wish the UK Police were routinely armed with Pistols (to save waiting for the "Armed Police to turn up to an incident where large numbers of people are either threatened with immediate death or actually being killed) - I realise the rules on their use would need to be very strict indeed.
The only argument I don't understand is the one which says "if you routinely arm the Police that is the first step to a Military State".
We have to face the fact that there are people wandering the streets who insist on arming themselves with knives and guns in order to "protect" themselves (and commit crimes).
Surely, knowing that is the case, we should give the Police every available tool to help them uphold the law???
Maybe if the Police had the capability to disarm a knife-wielding or gun-toting maniac before they could do any damage our streets might be safer???
Just a thought.
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