Armed Police: The ‘Us and Them’ argument?

UK Police Roll of Honour

Ironically, as National Police Memorial Day approaches, the country is once again reminded of the dedication to duty and courage displayed by our police officers. Although this annual event is organised to remember police officers who have been killed on duty, many of those outside of policing have no real comprehension of how dangerous it can be to be a police officer…

As the residents of Ashworth Lane in Mottram woke on Tuesday (18th Sep), their day of expected normality, and that of those employed by Greater Manchester Police (GMP), was shattered by the killing of two of their police officers, see Timeline of Events in Manchester Shootings (source BBC). Very quickly afterwards the media fuelled debate about the arming of British police officers hit the news stands at a pace.

But why don’t the British police carry guns: The BBC tried to answer this question after the deaths of the two female GMP constables, an event that once again brought into focus the unarmed status of most British police officers.

Despite the death of every officer (or anyone for that matter) being a sad event, which we should always be doing all we can to prevent, how big is this issue in reality? One violent death is one death too many however; is routinely arming all our police officers just another one of those simplistic knee-jerk reactions?

Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, has ruled out arming officers after the killing of two women constables. (BBC News)

Police Officer Shootings – The Facts – Source Police Roll of Honour

  • 256 police officers have been shot and killed in the UK since 1945 and 21 have been stabbed to death.
  • In England 51 were shot and 19 stabbed
  • In Wales – none, in Scotland – four shot and two stabbed, in Northern Ireland – 201 shot

One thing was once clear – When asked, the vast majority of police officers used to say overwhelmingly that they wanted to remain unarmed.

A 2006 survey of 47,328 Police Federation members found 82% did not want officers to be routinely armed on duty, despite almost half saying their lives had been “in serious jeopardy” during the previous three years…(Source BBC)

It is a position shared by the Police Superintendents’ Association and the Association of Chief Police Officers but the British public are not nearly so unanimous. An ICM poll in April 2004 found 47% supported arming all police, compared with 48% against. During my service as a police officer I have been armed as part of my work that said, I would also be guarded against more widespread and routine arming of our police.

When you start examining many of the comments and observations, resulting from this week’s event, it (worryingly) appears many officers are now changing their opinion? Any further divide of police and public is in many ways, a step too far.

The BBC News Magazine article – Why British police don’t have guns – gave a fairly rounded analysis of all the facts and issues involved here. 

Much of the post event comment, especially from those outside the ‘police family’  is no more than political rhetoric, or worse, contrived and false concern. Words that are delivered to placate public opinion about the failings of our government and to an extent, the failings of our society as a whole. But words are inadequate, all be they born out of sadness, anger and/or revenge.

Sadly, many of us don’t want to understand any of the issues, or worse, we choose to ignore them because they have no real impact upon us as individuals but in reality they do. A violent assault on a police officer, or worse, is actually yet another attack on our society and it’s framework.

Mark Easton, home affairs editor at the BBC touched on the most important issue here when he wrote – The police are the public and vice versa. His article highlighted a cornerstone of British policing methods, one that used to make it work.

“The Police are only those members of the public paid full-time to do duties incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.” ( Robert Peel)

These foundations are seen by some as archaic however;  the decades of political interference, not to mention the almost constant media condemnation of policing have now taken their toll. As policing continues crumbling to dust, and much of the ‘historic’ framework of a solid effective process has been chipped away, is it any wonder that the whole bloody structure is destined for collapse?

British policing is (wrongly) described by many as the ‘last unreformed public service’  (see here) – but these people are wrong and our communities are suffering from what these critics have created. We’re harvesting the produce of seeds sown by the media, our politicians and, to an extent, many senior police officers, people who should have known better.

These factors, along with decades of ‘reform’ and political interference, have been responsible for creating the unsavory system we see now. The prominent Us & Them ethos and culture now so prevalent both in modern-day policing and our society, is responsible for driving a wedge between the two.

It is not an us and them! The duty to do right lies not just with the police but the public. It is the public and police doing right, against the tiny minority who break the law. That principle needs re-establishing. (comment to BBC article)

Without a substantial and expedient change in direction, I for one fear there will be even more violent assaults on police officers, and possibly deaths. But we can and must do more. We have to heal the gaping wound that is the separation of society and policing. It is this divide that is killing our communities, and responsible for the killings within it.

At York Minster on Sunday 30th September 2012, there will be a strong demonstration to relatives, friends and colleagues of fallen officers that their sacrifice is valued and will not be forgotten. Although the event will predominantly be attended by individuals from within policing (and other emergency services), we have to hope that events such as this serve to galvanise public desire to change our social direction

Importantly, we must not allow these violent murders to be any greater waste of life than they already are. PCs Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes, like other police officers, must be thanked and valued for their commitment and efforts into trying to make our society a better place – R.I.P. and thanks!

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About Dave Hasney

National Coordinator for UK SMART Recovery - Previously a Recovery Worker and prior to that a Management Consultant and H&S Practitioner - Kept sane by Angling, Good Food, Real Ale & Wine - Cynical thoughts sometimes developed from others.

Posted on 20-09-2012, in Police, Society Babble and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. The police are doing a great job, going out there risking their lives for the purpose of doing a public service. We can continue to support them by living as law abiding citezens.

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  2. Inspector Gadget commented in his blog; You cannot take a TASER to a gunfight an win!

    Many have said, including leading Federation reps, that this is not the time to debate arming the police. I strongly disagree. This is precisely the time to debate it. As soon as the media and politicians turn their heads to something else, the opportunity will have been lost. We all know, disgraceful as it is, that in this country, whether it’s road safety, maritime issues, safety in the air, or anything else, somebody has to die before ‘the powers that be’ take an issue seriously…(Read more)

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  3. My thoughts and sincerest gratitude go out to the families of these young ladies that laid their lives down for us, if ever the public needed a reminder of the sacrifices that our uniformed services make to ensure our safety then this must be a wake up call. RIP brave Bobbies. Slainte

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