Letter: Quick on the draw

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your article 'Police force relaxes rules on officers drawing guns' (26 June) is largely correct, but contains one misleading and wrong assumption. I have indeed issued instructions that inspectors in the South Yorkshire Police may authorise our highly trained firearms officers immediately to draw their weapons, so that those officers can get quickly to the scene of an armed incident, while covering authority is sought from a chief officer for their deployment.

Our doing this has freed up armed officers to take swift and vital initial action, where before bureaucracy left them fuming and helpless while potentially dangerous criminals left the scene of a crime. The policy is absolutely in line with the latest Sheehy recommendations for showing greater trust in responsible and highly salaried officers.

The article states, incorrectly, that the policy has 'already led to a large increase . . . in occasions when police weapons have been drawn'. There has been no change whatever in the frequency of our response arising from this policy, although, sadly, firearms incidents are, at least at the moment, on the increase.

The increase in our figures for armed incidents comes not from the change in level of authority, but from the fact that we have decided to send firearms experts, whenever possible, to scenes of armed crime, where before unarmed officers would routinely expose themselves to danger trying to effect immediate containment. This is unacceptable and, though courageous, no substitute for the specialised response of our firearms group.

Yours faithfully,

RICHARD WELLS

Chief Constable

South Yorkshire Police

Sheffield

1 July

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