Underworld joins hunt: Killing fails to alter chief constables' view on arms, poll shows

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The Independent Online
DESPITE the outcry over the shooting last week of PC Patrick Dunne, Britain's chief constables are still adamant that police officers should not be routinely armed on the streets, a poll by the Independent on Sunday has found.

John Smith, Deputy Commissioner at Scotland Yard and president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), said: 'We don't feel the need for it exists at present. We don't believe the public wants it, and neither do police officers.'

Heads of provincial forces agreed with him, while stressing they were watching the situation closely and could not afford to be complacent.

Yesterday detectives investigating PC Dunne's killing in Clapham on Wednesday night revealed they were receiving extensive help from the underworld.

Detective Superintendent John Jones, who is heading the inquiry, said criminals had been shocked by the shooting of the popular community constable, aged 44, who was killed as he stumbled across the drugs murder of a small-time dealer, William Danso.

Although the offer of a pounds 55,000 reward, maiEnly raised by a national paper, was an incentive, many were saying they did not want payment for their assistance, Det Supt JoneTHER write errors said.

PC Dunne had been attempting to radio for help and had his receiver close to his mouth when he was shot. He had been wearing a yellow fluorescent jacket. 'One can imagine what a dreadfully easy target he would have made,' Det Supt Jones said.

The officer was killed by a single bullet as he went to investigate the sound of shooting coming from Mr Danso's home.

Mr Danso's wife, Deborah, suffered a miscarriage of the couple's fifth child yesterday morning, Det Supt Jones revealed. He described Mr Danso as 'not a particularly nice man' who had thousands of pounds' worth of electrical equipment at his ground-floor flat while his family lived in squalor at a separate address.

Four men have been questioned in connection with the murders but have been released on police bail.

Britain remains one of the few countries that does not routinely arm police officers on patrol. Only one in 16 officers throughout the country is authorised to use firearms - 7,700 men and women out of Britain's 127,000 officers.

Yet the outcry over the shootings did not affect the united front Britain's chief constables are presenting over firearms.

The Chief Constable of Essex, John Burrow, said: 'There are clearly areas where it is dangerous and difficult, with drug-related crimes leading to people carrying weapons, and officers must be adequately protected. But the question of generally arming the police is not an issue. We have got to look at the specific circumstances and ask ourselves if we are protecting our officers adequately.'

John Evans, chief constable of Devon and Cornwall, said tighter control on firearm and shotgun licences was the best means of preventing criminals carrying guns. 'Firearms certification should not allow for more than one weapon per certificate and we will endeavour to ensure proper security by all authorised certificate holders in an effort to prevent the theft of weapons,' he said.

Ian Oliver, Chief Constable of Grampian Police and current president of ACPO in Scotland, said his colleagues fully supported the position adopted in the rest of the country. 'We share their concern regarding the increasing dangers faced by all operational police officers. We are satisfied with the current arrangements and do not support the view officers should carry firearms as a matter of course.'

An ACPO firearms committee kept the threat constantly under review, said Mr Smith, warning that arming officers would add enormous costs to the policing bill. 'It would require extensive and expensive training. The training isn't something you do once. You have to continue to do it, year in year out.'

Successive surveys of police officers themselves reveal little appetite for guns. One of PC Dunne's colleagues from Clapham police station, interviewed the morning after his death, clearly turned his face against arming the police. 'We don't like any guns. We don't like violence,' he said.

Scotland Yard has defended its disbanding last year of a specialist crack intelligence unit which targeted Jamaican Yardie gangs and drug-related violence. The intelligence gathered by the squad was retained and the detectives involved were simply moved from a central squad to area drug teams around London where their experience could be better employed, the Yard said.

(Photographs omitted)

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