Police criticised over firearm procedures

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The Independent Online
Police use of firearms should be comprehensively reviewed, a government inspectors' report recommended yesterday.

The call for a national review follows a critical inspection of Metropolitan police divisions in north-west London. The study found that records of firearm incidents were not being kept properly and many officers were unwilling to attend training courses, while others were confused about their responsibilities. In one district,the number of firearms officers had been reduced to such a low level there were not enough to guard witnesses, hospitals or courts.

The report comes at a time when an increasing number of trained officers are routinely carrying firearms, and as pressure grows for the police to be given greater access to guns to protect themselves.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary carried out the study of the newly formed Police Area 2, which includes Islington, Wembley, Tottenham, Hampstead, Ealing, and Barnet, in August.

The inspectors discovered that the time of arrival for armed response vehicles had not been contemporaneously recorded in 80 per cent of the cases they studied. "The system should be audited to ensure that it is accurate", the report said.

They also found that no debriefings were held after a number of spontaneous incidents involving armed officers - in direct contradiction to recommendations made by the Association of Chief Police Officers in its firearms manual.

The inspectors concluded: "The training issues raised in relation to firearms tactical awareness and authorised firearms officers should be rectified as soon as practicable and there should be a service-wide comprehensive review of police use of firearms."