Thursday, June 14, 2007


Pc Henry's death is now slipping beneath the murky waters of the mainstream media level of interest. Soon to be, if not already, displaced by the big brother house, Victoria Beckham and the 453rd "investigation" into Diana's crash.

Won't ever be forgotten by most coppers I know. Anyone on response team will feel a particular resonance with his story, because in any force on any day there will be a call with parallel features. All will know, it could've been them turning up first on scene. Just last week we had a shout with a crazed male trying to force his way into his ex's house. When the officer gets there he pulls a knife from under his jacket and lunges for the officer. The officer gets out of the way without a contact, thankfully.
Crazy man is contained in a basement area (how I love police dogs straining at the lead, practically foaming at the mouth) but he only puts that knife down when the big red Tazer dot appears on his chest.

Do I think all officers should be armed? Short answer, No.

There are people who I barely trust with a driving course and a set of handcuffs, let alone the level of responsibility required for having a lethal weapon. The amount of effort required to get rid of a bad (incompetent, not criminal) copper is monumental, taking months or years to complete. A couple of occasions I've turfed people straight out of the custody suite because their arrests have been, well, completely unlawful. And I'm talking basic offences here, not a complex subsection paragraph amendment to a money laundering act. Could you trust someone with a gun who arrested someone "for S25 PACE" (pre SOCPA days here) because they had refused their details on a stop search?

I have been involved in full on scraps with people. On one occasion a colleague had his baton wrestled from him and was used against him. Every interaction with the public we would have to stand off. I would not get involved in physical contact with a gun strapped to my leg. It would require such a massive shift in the way we interact with the public, - a negative shift to my mind- requiring us to stand off, be more aggressive in giving commands, be more alienated.

Maybe armed officers who read this can enlighten me. I've never done firearms training and so am not really speaking from experience: but common sense tells me that you don't get physical with a sidearm strapped to you.

I'm not a traditionalist. I think we should police according to the requirements of the day, and not because people think that because its been done in a certain way for x years, it should remain that way. Like uniform. Daft, impractical, sweaty top hats that are only kept because they give tourists something to take photos of. "You British Bobby? Wowee!"

So I'm not against arming all police with firearms for reasons of traditionalism or sentamentalism. I simply don't think it is necessary at the moment.

However, I do think our current armed response capability is inadequate. I know of some county forces who only have had 5 trained officers available in a shift. I fail to understand why Tazers are not made more available. I fail to see why only firearms trained officers are authorised to use them. (I am sure if I posed this question to SMT officers I'd recieve a veritable thickness of SOP's detailing why force policy is not. Actually, to be fair to our current Chief of Ops, he'd say he wants more and lay the blame squarely at the doors of the home office)

My (unscientifically proven or researched) opinion, from speaking to firearms trained colleagues, is that Tazer is in several circumstances safer than CS gas. No cross contamination. No problems using it in a contained area or inside a building. It is not a corrosive agent. It does not have a 20 minute recovery time. There is not a body of people who are immune to the effects of a tazer. Tazer incapicates people and prevents them fighting on. CS sometimes infuriates people and motivates them fighting on.

I don't think every officer should be Tazer equipped. (see above re driving courses.) But their availability should be more widespread: one per division / sector / area, maybe even issued to supervisors (ha!!!) but not confined to the armed response car covering the whole force area.

The one fortunate thing about the circumstance of Pc Henry's death was the time of the morning. The lack of traffic and early time of day meant the armed response car could be there quickly. If they were tied up dealing with something else, or were 12 miles away in rush hour, then the response team PC's on scene would've had to tackle him, especially if they thought he was likely to attack anyone else.

Thats my two pennies worth. Not the best of events providing motivation for my 100th post.