Friday, 24 August 2007

To Arm Or Not To Arm

We had to go south of Montpellier today, so set off at the crack of dawn to miss the holiday traffic jams at the peage gates.

During the long (!) journey we got to talking about the main story on the front pages of the UK newspapers following the fatal shooting of an 11-year-old boy - the increasing prevalence of guns on the streets back home, and what on earth can be done about tackling it.

Richard predicted that soon we will be as close as we have ever been to the possibility of armed British Police Officers. The usual knee-jerk reaction of the British Public when such a spate of crimes has been majoring in the Press - arm all the police officers.

My contention was that this would not make any difference. You actually have to have enough police officers first to put on the streets, before considering whether to arm them or not!

The general public have no real conception of how short of police officers we are in the UK. Richard remembered there was a report in the early 1980's that concluded that about 50,000 Metropolitan Police Officers were needed as minimum just to police London. There are less than 30,000 currently, I think.

Peak recruitment was about 30 years ago, and it has been down hill ever since. Those officers are due to retire, if they have not already (they have served their time!) - and so things are just going to get worse.

Morale is at rock bottom and public support for the Police is probably at its all time low.

As usual the Police are in a no-win situation. The same public that will be calling for all PCs to be armed, are the ones who will be screaming the loudest when the headlines are 'Armed Police Gun Down Teenager In The Street'. Note that most of the recent gun killings have been by adolescents, and those are the criminals that the newly armed police would be tackling on the streets.

The public has to realise that when an officer is required to carry a gun as part of their duty, they are trained to shoot it to kill. In a dangerous and fast moving situation, they do not have the option to think - maybe I should see if I can hit his right hand or shoulder in the hope of disabling him - that is assuming he is right handed......of course it might be just an imitation gun......

I do not know any officer who supports arming the Police but I know many who see it as inevitable, sooner or later. Unfortunately it might be sooner.

Once again Richard is thankful he is out of it. It is no longer the job he joined to do. A job it is increasingly impossible to do in fact.

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