Killing of a Constable: Pressure for arming the police grows: Guns widely available - Drugs creating unstable climate - Death penalty back on agenda
Although the number of armed officers decreased in the late 1980s and early 1990s due to a policy of 'fewer, better trained' marksmen, it increased substantially in 1991, the last year for which figures are available. But at 7,717, they are only a small proportion of the 127,000- strong force in England and Wales.
Most firearms are issued to specialist teams and armed response vehicles, now used by almost all forces. Last week, a Metropolitan Police specialist firearms officer shot dead an armed robber who had fired dozens of shots at police after being chased from the scene of a north London bank robbery.
Despite the widespread publicity and public sympathy for each murdered police officer, there are no signs the rate is increasing. Five officers have died in London since the murder of PC Keith Blakelock in 1985 and another nine elsewhere in England and Wales. Most were unarmed.
IRA activities have led to the murder of one police officer - Special Constable Glenn Goodman in North Yorkshire - and the attempted murder of another, PC Ray Hall, who narrowly escaped death in north London in November last year when shots were fired at his head and in his back. The IRA campaign and other terrorist threats have led to an increase in the arming and number of personal protection officers and permanently armed airport patrols.
Many senior officers, the Police Federation and criminologists now accept an almost fully armed force is only a matter of time as a result of the rise in armed crime, particularly that connected with drugs.
Nationally, offences involving firearms increased by 50 per cent between 1988 and 1991; armed robberies almost doubled. There have been four crack-related murders this year compared to one last year in south-east London.
Detectives are concerned about the widespread availability of firearms to low echelons of the underworld - guns are available 'on loan' for a few hundred pounds in parts of London. They also are concerned about the possible influx of surplus firearms from the former Eastern Bloc. A number of police initiatives are underway to study and tackle the links between the trade in illicit firearms and drugs, and the rise in armed crime.
Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said yesterday that although the police did not seek to be armed, more armed criminals will lead to the position where 'more police officers must be armed'. He added: 'Officers deserve to be protected.'
The murder would increase calls for permanent arming, said Mike Bennett, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation: 'The only protection against the gun is the gun.' But he stressed that it was not something he favoured, and he wanted the Government to ensure that when convicted murderers were sentenced, 'life meant life'.
Ian Johnston, Deputy Assistant Commissioner in charge of south London, said facing armed criminals was part of the job. 'We would want to hold out against being armed as long as possible. There may come a time when the price we are paying is too high, but not yet.'
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
General Election 2015: Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind as he casts a line to the disaffected of Grimsby
The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
Russian warships accused of 'chasing away' Swedish vessel to prevent Baltic States from achieving energy independence
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...
£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...