Letter: Armed police for London

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The Independent Online
Sir: Although the open arming of the police appears to be a new development (report, 17 May), it was in fact routine for Metropolitan police on night patrol to carry pistols until the mid-1930s, and most people today would like to feel that the police are in a position to act effectively in a violent situation.

However, it is known that the sight of a weapon can increase a mood of violence in any serious encounter, and an openly worn sidearm is very easy to take from a policeman who suffers a surprise attack - hence the observation that arms do not appear to add materially to police safety in some settings. An alternative is possible, that of arming most police with a slim self-loading pistol worn within a tunic designed for swift access.

With regard to the use of chemical sprays, these are prohibited weapons in the UK; this is perhaps a legacy of a social memory of their use during the First World War. Perhaps now would be the time to acknowledge their value as a means of subduing assailants who are under the influence of drink or drugs, although the use of these unergonomic aerosols against an alert and agile opponent is somewhat dubious.

Yours sincerely,



17 May