This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

Armed Police: How Why When

In this country, in order for a trained armed police officer to take out his gun and carry it with him as opposed to locked away in his vehicle, he has to follow a set policy.

The population of Blandshire far exceeds Cumbria, and I can guarantee we suffer more gun and violent crime. But it would take 2-3 hours or more to gather this many armed officers in one place.

This varies from force to force, but in Blandshire an authority has to be given in every case for an armed officer to draw his gun. There's an exception to cover the rare eventuality that an armed officer stumbles across a spontaneous situation and has to whip it straight out. I don't know why, but some control room inspectors are loath to give the authority to arm, and frequently go for taser or baton rounds instead, even when the offender is clearly armed and dangerous. Others will authorise arming at the merest sniff of a wielded screwdriver.

Some of us are fiercely opposed to being permanently armed. Others welcome it.

Perhaps there's some middle ground available: if all police were trained and carried guns in their vehicles (in locked safes), they could access them if authorised in cases like the Cumbrian massacre. There would still be fully trained armed units but who would possess a permanent authority and would carry their weapons on them at all times.

I like the idea of the unarmed British bobby. I'm proud to be one. But if I was standing in Whitehaven on Wednesday morning watching pedestrian after pedestrian getting gunned down before me, I'd like to have some options.

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.


Blogger John R said...

"I'd like to have some options."

And as a citizen so would I. Currently I have only two - target or witness.

The police will always do their best, but as they are only ever going to get a call once the shooting starts it's inevitable that they cannot stop crazies or criminals going on the rampage or stop them once they start. Only by having armed police on every street could this ever change.

Remember that in all recent rampages like this, the killer decided when to start and when to stop (by killing himself) the police were not able to intervene during the rampage.

Yes, we should review our gun laws, but as they currently only allow criminals and crazies to have weapons, it's not more regulation we need, but less.

I think the time is right to go back to pre-1920 rules with citizens allowed to carry weapons. These days I'd add mandatory training, various background/health checks etc but an armed citizenry would have limited the Cumbrian deaths.

05 June, 2010 08:23

Anonymous Max said...

I know what you mean with some bosses very reluctant to authorise officers to arm. It is also interesting to remember that the remit of firearms authorisation as per ACPO guidelines is (and this is not verbatim im sure) "otherwise so dangerous that the subject could not reasonably safley restrained without the use of firearms". So the offender does not actually have to have a lethal barrelled weapon for the authority to be justified. Very recently my team were requested to assist on a warrant where there was credible firearms intelligence and use a taser callout option because the Boss didn't want "Bobbies with Mp5's in the street scaring the neighbors". We refused and told him to get the correct authority and trained officers. madness.

05 June, 2010 08:43

Anonymous Steve at the Pub said...

... and you're not the only one, who if standing watching pedestrian after pedestrian being shot dead before you, would like to have some options.

We'd all like that same option.

The police can only ever hunt for my killer.
I'd prefer to stay alive.

05 June, 2010 10:19

Blogger Rob said...

How quaint I find the mentality of "we are english police we dont carry guns" In this day and age with the availablity of weapns (not just firearms) to the crims, its just not safe or practical to not have a firearm as one of your use of force option s and it goes without saying that you must have that option immediately to hand not up to two hours away.

05 June, 2010 10:27

Blogger JuliaM said...

So far, it seems police never actually caught up to him until after he'd killed most of those people. So what possible good would it have done?

You can't shoot what you can't see.

05 June, 2010 14:13

Blogger Hogday said...

Quite right Ellie and I too would be looking for something, immediately to hand, to protect myself under such circumstances. I say, `myself` because although in all circumstances the public are supposed to come first, in cases like these you can't protect Joe P if you can't stay alive long enough to do so.

05 June, 2010 16:41

Anonymous NottsSarge said...

Here, all incidents involving weapons are automatically referred to 'Top Desk' i.e. the Control Room Insp and/or a civilian manager.
Firstly, I don't want tactical decisions making by someone who is not a cop, has never been a cop and only knows vicariously, through the power of CCTV, policy and, of course, hindsight, just what we might be going into.
I'm equally uncomfortable putting my welfare, and that of the public, in the hands of an Insp who may or may not have previous firearms experience, may be in a non-combatant post for any number of reasons and who may or may not be more worried about what damage it would do to their career if they dropped a bollock over a firearms incident.
The Gold/Silver/Bronze heirarchy is fine, but if you accept that Police Officers are trained professionals, they need to allowed to exercise that professional judgement.
I'm with Ellie on this - keep ARVs out there with at least a sidearm at all times. Keep a locked gun safe in the cars so there is always the option available.
As we travel further down the road of risk aversion, we expose the public and ourselves to greater danger while someone makes a decision in the Force Control Room (or not as the case may be).
If you want me to protect life and property, I'd like the tools to do the job please.

05 June, 2010 20:06

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

JuliaM - ARMED police only caught up to him. There would have been five times the number of unarmed police who may have been close enough to find him, but wouldn't have been deployed as they'd be sitting ducks. Most likely they were only deployed to provide first aid, preserve scenes, and evacuate areas (all important mind you).

05 June, 2010 20:28

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know half of the officers on that picture you posted are CNC right?

As in always armed with standing authority for sidearms along with carbines in specific circumstances (and 30mm Rarden cannon as well but thats another story).

06 June, 2010 01:24

Blogger JuliaM said...

"...There would have been five times the number of unarmed police who may have been close enough to find him..."

And may not.

If there's a case for routinely arming the police, then make it.

But don't make it on the back of this incident with an unspoken promise that it'll solve the problem, because when the NEXT spree killer goes mad, and you don't stop him despite being armed (or people end up dead in the crofffire), the backlash from the media will make the one after De Menezes look like a mild letter of critiscm written to the 'Church Times'...

06 June, 2010 06:41

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The goverment wont arm the police. The cost involved 2 fully arm the police would be so high. Not just the weapons themselves, the training that would have to be ongoing, the mental assessments required as this is not stringent comapred to other countries whos officers join knowing they will be armed, storage of weapons ect ect. They will always say about the traditional bobby is best plus a few other arguements, but even if you get past all the other reasons why not to ar the police it will always fail on the cost aspect alone,

06 June, 2010 07:02

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Britain has a proud and enviable tradition of an unarmed police force but things are, sadly, changing. Some police officers still want to remain unarmed, some want to be armed. To my mind, the day all officers go on duty with guns in their belts will be a sad day, but I feel that that day is coming closer.

Before welcoming that day, however, talk to citizens of countries where the police do carry guns. Learn about the accidents and, yes, the abuse by some police officers of their weapons. Learn to see that while carrying guns may become necessary, it is in no sense a "solution" to the problem of violence. It will not prevent a Dunblane or a Whitehaven; it may or may not terminate it sooner.

I don't want to see police officers being injured or killed by criminals or the mentally disturbed, but I think we have to accept that this will always remain a possibility, given the nature of their work and that arming them will not prevent it.

Will arming the police make the public feel safer? My experience of travelling in countries where police officers are armed suggests not.

06 June, 2010 09:12

Anonymous Civvie Despatcher said...

Ellie, I've also noticed that control room inspectors vary wildly in their decisions to deploy firearms or not. I don't understand how this can be when we have so many policies around their use - it should surely be the same each time.

06 June, 2010 17:23

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

JuliaM: "And may not."

It's not an exact science, but your reaction is as if the discussion about arming the police is somehow despiccable. It's right to have a constructive debate about the subject following an incident where a fully armed force may have prevented some loss of life. It doesn't mean I'm some kind of crazed gun-toting powermonger.

06 June, 2010 18:21

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There be many Brits living or vacationing in lands that have armed Policemen, How Many come back to England to live as they be fright of being gunned down by a Policemen with a weapon?
More have been shot by a "Perp" wanting their car or gold watch.

06 June, 2010 19:53

Anonymous DBRG said...

Hey Julia - here's a decent argument for you, based on a real-life case:

13 dead? Perhaps we ought to remember this:

Why didn't the soldiers open fire? Because their weapons and ammunition are kept under lock and key, with strict conditions for their release (the rogue soldier used civilian-bought weapons and ammunition) and would need authorisation from very senior officers to sanction their release.

Does that sound familiar?

Thankfully they had a brave, resourceful and armed officer to shoot, disable and arrest this nut.

Perhaps you'd have liked to try this with half-a-yard of cheap alloy and a tin of irritant. Somehow I doubt it.

The sooner we arm up the sooner we can successfully prevent a repetition of this tragedy.

All the best,


06 June, 2010 23:17

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was dealings with HMRC and an unpaid tax bill that sent Bird over the edge into insanity, because the taxman's stasi are unaccountable, unlike the hamstrung police officers.

Perhaps the solution is to not arm the police, but to rein in the power crazed HMRC, who do persecute, stalk and harass their victims, to ensure they get every last penny out of them. I have heard people say that they were more scared of the taxman than the police. That is oppression of the public, all in the name of money.

My deepest sympathy goes out to all those who lost loved ones as a result of the terrible shootings.
I also have a great deal of sympathy for the unarmed officers who saw what happened, and could do nothing to stop Bird killing people. Those officers must feel rather dreadful, but it wasn't their fault at all. They cannot be blamed for being unable to stop a crazy man with a gun.

07 June, 2010 02:40

Blogger JuliaM said...

"...your reaction is as if the discussion about arming the police is somehow despiccable."

No, I can see a case for increasing the number of armed police, and that debate is good to have.

What's despicable is obliquely promising it as the solution to these sort of events.

07 June, 2010 05:53

Blogger Hogday said...

Notts Sarge has my backing 100% re his comments. I have experienced all of the frustrations and foibles he touched on. I've stood next to an ARV who were refused authority to `open the locker and arm` as two of my officers were chasing a man through the street 100 yards from where we stood. He was wanted for an armed bank robbery. My two officers were reporting back with such short messages as, `Pointing handgun towards us, taking cover`. The Force control room Insp. would not authorise them to arm as he wanted an ACC to do this. The ARV crew wouldn't self arm and I, as the acting Inspector, was explaining in urgent words of one and two syllables, why I needed armed officers "right f`ing now". To a large extent, those days are well past in respect of the ARV crews, but I gather from Notts Sarge that the FCR Inspectors of that ilk are still there. All the signs are there for some simple remedies. We just need to implement them.

07 June, 2010 10:00

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re JuliaM and the may/may not argument, if there are no armed cops then there's no 'may', there's only a 'may not'.

'...(if) people end up dead in the crofffire (sic)...'

Or don't.

If you're going to demand Bloggs makes her case, rather than just suggests hypotheticals, you ought to do the same.

07 June, 2010 12:53

Blogger Metcountymounty said...

Three unarmed officers had eyes on Bird AT THE START when he first started shooting. You cannot tell me that if they were armed that they couldnt have least significantly increased the chances of saving the lives of every single victim after that point by having the opportunity of stopping or killing him.

07 June, 2010 16:11

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

JuliaM - I didn't make any such promises, I simply made some suggestions, and gave the perspective of an unarmed police officer, which is all I can really do!

07 June, 2010 21:56

Blogger blueknight said...


Very few Police Officers WANT to be armed. Quite a few think they NEED to be.

07 June, 2010 23:08

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I;m sure the arguments for and against routine arming as useless as arguments - we need better arguments. I'm not in favour of sidearms, but would go for at least one rifle in every other car boot and training for all cops with an opt out for use.

The discretion for tooling up should be with the individual officer, subject to informing control.
More generally, I'd like to see a return to the officer as an independent Crown agent to do something about idiot SMT and target statistics to get some accountability and truth back where it is missing in the job.

07 June, 2010 23:15

Anonymous NottsSarge said...

Hogday - I'm glad it's not just me. I was always told it was better to make a decision and it be the wrong one than not to make a decision at all. That seems to go out the window when it comes to firearms incidents.
The irony here is that the 'top desk referrals' are for any job with a weapon, be it gun, knife, baseball bat or anything else that comes to hand. One dispatcher recently told officers "not to attend" a job until it had been assessed (we did attend, thereby saving someone the bother of having to make a decision).
Clearly it's not always right to go straight in - in Cumbria at least three officers would probably have died - but ultimately we are paid to do a job. If people die or are injured while we prevaricate and risk assess, we have failed in our principal objective of protecting life and property. Unfortunately, some individuals are more interested in protecting their pensions/reputations/prospects. Simple remedies indeed...

08 June, 2010 01:00

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even if the police had been armed they could have been ambushed. Quasi military operations are not alway effective,
Any way the police probaly wouldn't do anything on health and safety grounds.

08 June, 2010 07:50

Anonymous Retired Sgt said...

I live in a country where the police are armed.The arguement that this puts a barrier between the police and the public is nonsense-I regularly see police patrolling where I live on foot and in cars engaging with the public having their coffee in bars rather than in the police station where they chat to local people.On the other hand when I return to the UK I never see a police officer or a PCSO and the local nick is hardly ever open to the public.
I have no doubt that over here someone like Bird would have been shot dead in five minutes of it kicking off because
1.The police are armed
2.They are there on the ground rather than coming from some "response hub" miles away

08 June, 2010 08:28

Anonymous Anonymous said...


That 'may not' has now disappeared with the revelation that three unarmed cops confronted Bird but had to let him go (and go on to kill nine more people).

08 June, 2010 09:13

Blogger JuliaM said...

"I didn't make any such promises..."

Indeed you didn't, but unfortunately...

"The sooner we arm up the sooner we can successfully prevent a repetition of this tragedy."

There are others only too willing to do so.

And, DBRG, what happens if the next one occurs and you don't?

08 June, 2010 14:21

Blogger Whichendbites said...

There was always going to be a time delay in getting armed officers into a position where they could have done something that may have reduced ther tragic loss of life. In reality, if there were any available, it would have taken far too long to get them a coding, get incident command structure sorted, then identify RV point, then try to get fluid and accurate updates. They may have been left trying to secure previous scenes and not had the opportunity to set up any active containment or create the chance to restrict the gunman's movements to such a degree that the normal wheels of negotiation could take place in a static, controlled and contained way. If officers were armed as a norm, it may have restricted freedom of movement of the gunman somewhat but it is also likely that there would have been collateral or a hostage situatuion as well. Luckily this is a very rare set of circumstances. The cost implications of training all front line officers make this a definate no-no, even without consideration to selection protocols and policies. As a selection critera consideration it may make things more effective in the future for potential recruits but no way in the current time period. In my experience I would not trust that many of my colleagues to possess a firearm.

08 June, 2010 16:45

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rather than all Officers becoming AFO’s there should be more ARV’s. Rather than 2 or 3 cars covering the county you should have a car that covers each Borough/INA, that responds to normal incidents aswell as possible Firearms/Tazer support incidents. That way travel time is cut considerably.

I work in an area that has huge rural areas aswell as big inner city population, if your stuck on the outskirts in the middle of no-where it can take upto 35-40 mins to get to a scene on Grade 1 response, as generally the ARV’s cover the cities/towns.

ARV’s in each Borough/INA would significantly cut down on the time to respond, would not cost the force a fortune and all areas are covered by a fast, proficient armed capability. Of course it would probably never happen in my force but the thought is there.

SW Copper

09 June, 2010 12:22

Blogger Mrs Dibble said...

My Husband is one of the police Officers that does not want to be armed, and to be honest I don't want him to have a gun either, I beleive that if the Police are armed then there will be more Officers killed by criminals who have illegal weapons, which there will also be more of on the streets, but I do beleive that there has to be something done with regards to Armed Response Units, although what that would be I don't know.

09 June, 2010 15:41

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

"The sooner we arm up the sooner we can successfully prevent a repetition of this tragedy."

A quote from who?

09 June, 2010 17:58

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sealed guns locked in all cars - break the seal you have to explain why.

We do have to be careful that criminals are not made to feel that they need a gun to compete with the police. Because if all the criminals start carrying them, I'll feel I need one too.

Guns have the effect that the only person likely to be able to respond in time is the intended victim. As criminals don't generally go looking for a fight with police (especially armed ones) that leaves me as the likely target...

09 June, 2010 19:32

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allcoppedout would like to see a "return to the officer as the independent Crown agent to do something about idiot SMT and target statistics to get some accountability and truth back where it is missing in the job."

I could well be your wish granting Genie ACO, but somebody would have to come up with the "danger money" promised to me, but never paid so far, for my attention to duty and integrity, and the truth. Truths that most do not wish to acknowledge, because of the "bashing" some would get from the press and the public.

But is it worth becoming a "target" though, of the SMT, who care only about themselves, their jobs, their bonus's and their pensions? The culture of lies and cover ups goes back a long way, and leads to the very top of the ladder. They really do not care who they hurt, or smear and discredit, to save their own skins.

What if the SMT in West Cumbria had been given an Intel prior warning about Derrick Bird, and his killing spree? They wouldn't be in any hurry to admit it, would they? No, because whoever dismissed it as "fantasy and nonsense" would have had one HELL of a shock when it actually happened, as per Intel warning.

That's assuming the Met DID pass the Intel on to West Cumbria, and that they didn't just sit on it, to then justify an argument for arming all response cops.....and to continue to deny the rest of the Intel they had/have, which they have also tried to deny and cover up on, regarding 9-11, 7-7, Jean Charles De Menezes and the torture of the innocent Muslims Binyam Mohamed et al, plus a lot more besides that lot, including cover ups over child sexual abuse by paedos in the judiciary and SMT.

The tragedy of the killing spree in Cumbria by Bird, WAS foretold by an Angel a long time ago. Bird was driven over the edge by his dealings with HMRC, sadly. The even bigger tragedy, would be a failure on the part of the Home Office to acknowledge the truth of this matter, in full, warts and all. THEN, and only then, will we get some progress, and a return of the public's confidence in the police.

Anything less than a new politics of "transparency" by government, promised by Prime Minister David Cameron, would be an INSULT to those souls who have died and passed on to the afterlife. R.I.P.

Arming ALL police is NOT the answer.

10 June, 2010 03:37

Anonymous Rob said...

JuliaM perhaps if you pull your head out of your backside then you may have more of value to say.
As it is now you have nothing.

I have been an armed copper for the last 25 years. Your country has changed and not for the better. Your opinions need to change as well.

10 June, 2010 06:34

Anonymous Ulla Lauridsen said...

I live in Denmark, where all officers are armed, and it doesn't seem to be a problem.
They have, from time to time, been able to prevent serious crimes from happening, but most often, they have to shoot in self defence.
Are a lot of british officers killed in the line of duty by gun, knife or axe-wielding mentally ill people or hardened criminals? Or are you allowed to get away because you are not armed and thus not a threath?

11 June, 2010 16:04

Anonymous shiuro said...

For me, I simply don't care if we are armed or not-it's not my decision.

If members of the public are content to have a Police force that can't protect them against an armed threat, it's ok with me. I get paid either way.

You're the bosses...

If you are content to have a situation where you trust villains with guns more than Police, it's ok with me.

If you think the rosy coloured world of unarmed officers is preferable to the actual reality of modern Policing, that's ok with me too.

What isn't ok with me is, as an unarmed officer (not even a tazer) being sent to firearms jobs.

I have a wife and kids. So I take my time.

20 June, 2010 22:16


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