Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Monday, 5 July 2010

Arming the Police?

Because of the actions of one Raoul Moat, Inspector Gadget has written a piece that seems to call for routine arming of all Police
The actions of this individual, and the police response outlined above (recalling all officers to stations for fear of further casualties) proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the current unarmed police service in Britain is no longer fit for purpose.
and ...
Northumbria Police has had to bring in ARVs from other Forces so as to offer a measure of protection to citizens and officers alike.
Within the comments we can read that,
... all unarmed (the vast majority) of Northumbria officers are grounded, apart from going to “I calls”(I take it they will know which ones are genuine and which is a trap).
The call for routine arming of all Police seems to be widely supported by comments left, so Mrs Rigby, naturally, jumped in with both feet and wrote this. She wouldn't normally repeat comments she's left elsewhere, but this is an exception.
With the greatest of respect to you all, because you do a grand job, and I can see my comment comes after some who are asking for Police to be armed, but maybe you don’t understand why we ordinary mortals are a bit bothered to hear even more talk about having ‘all police armed’.

You see, it’s because we read about things like this (inserted extract ... "One of the hostages was then apparently shot by mistake with a Taser...")

We think most people will recover from being hit by a tazer, we fear that being mistakenly shot if wrongly identified will result in a very different outcome. And, you see, some Police are already telling us it’s illegal to take photographs and some of those are being a bit too pushy about it too. How long will it be before a photographer is tazered for arguing about his or her rights, or for pushing back when a police officer wrongly grabs their expensive camera?

Some people are a bit concerned that some – only some – Police are a bit more worried about looking after themselves, or covering their own backs when they make a mistake, instead of looking after us ‘members of the public’.

We know it’s only a few bad apples, but in the wrong hands a gun is lethal. That’s how we ended up with the knee-jerk legislation that made British gun laws so stringent.

There are lots of legally held guns in this country, their owners are very careful to keep themselves legal. But, you see, as somebody else has pointed out, our gun laws are so strict that decent people and aren’t even allowed to pursue a challenging hobby they once enjoyed. Some of our excellent Olympic shooters have to train in France – yet this chap managed to get a weapon within 12 hours of being released from jail.

How could he do that? It’s against the law!

Aren’t your demands to be armed yet another knee-jerk reaction? We don’t hear you calling out for the same when ordinary folk, including children, are shot dead. Be honest, and ask yourself if you’d be making the same demands if this man had stopped after murdering Chris Brown.

Would PC Rathband have been able to use his weapon, if he’d had one? Would it have made any difference?

Why aren’t we hearing more about pressure and significant efforts to prevent and shut down the illegal gun trade?

The important things now though are to hope PC David Rathband makes a full recovery and the maniac who shot him is quickly captured before he does any more harm.
So why is this comment repeated?

It's because 'Smithyknows' replies to 'Mrs R', 'Crux' and 'JuliaM' with this,
So if you consider how rare it is that fires actually occur why do most people have smoke alarms?

Most rtc’s are minor but most people have airbags.

So why can’t I- who faces danger more often than I have ever had an rtc, a house fire or any kind of such near misses- why can’t I be afforded the same protection of safety when facing seriously armed individuals.

Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked in their shoes.

Once you have dealt with incidents of such violence or volatility that you are chuffed you’re still alive, tell me your opinion.

Do I not have the same Human Right to Life?
It would be very easy to fully fisk this comment and to take up space on Insp Gadget's blog to do so, but that isn't really fair, so Mrs Rigby is responding here on her own blog.

First of all, Mrs Rigby has not, can not, and does not want to 'walk a mile' in a Police officer's shoes - but she has family and friends who have, and who still do. And she knows which of these individuals she would trust to be 'routinely armed'.
Don’t judge someone until you’ve walked in their shoes.
But, 'Smithyknows', you aren't walking in our shoes are you?

You don't know who we are. You don't know how we live our lives. Nor do you know what we, our families and friends, 'do' to make a living - you're making a sweeping assumption that all apparently non-Police commenters know nothing of policing, violence or firearms, and because of that you're claiming that we can't relate to the issues raised when you call for Police to be routinely armed.

You're also suggesting that you should be allowed to protect yourself because of your job, when you know of Britain's very restrictive firearms legislation - drawn up as a reaction to serious incidents, rather than being carefully thought through. Maybe if that law was rigorously enforced then this current 'arming' debate wouldn't be happening, and there wouldn't be questions raised elsewhere about allowing ordinary people, who some Police refer to as MOPs, being permitted to carry firearms or sidearms - and thus being able to protect ourselves when we go about our everyday lives, and when we're doing our jobs, or visiting the park (can't find the link).

Talk about being disconnected! Have you any idea how cynical and self-seeking that looks?

You want a gun because your job is sometimes dangerous. Yet, in the heat of the moment and wanting to join in the debate you don't seem to have thought it through. Or have you?

To make us really understand how tough and dangerous your job is you compare the protection afforded by an airbag and a smoke alarm with a firearm - even an infant will know which of those three tends to save lives and which, in the wrong hands, will take a life.

If you're successful, who'll be next to make the same demands? Will it be the fire brigade, paramedics, night club bouncers, security guards, parking attendants – anybody with a badge who comes into contact with those terribly dangerous MOPs who could turn awkward when they don't want to do as they're told?

And then how long would it be before all these 'official firearms users' are allowed to have them at home - just in case some nutter MOP (who isn't allowed to have a firearm because it's against the law) takes a dislike to them, the job they do, or doesn't like the look of their uniform?

And in the meantime, law-abiding MOPs who go out for the day and take a picnic with them, get their forks taken away - when they visit a museum, because presumably somebody has decided that cutlery is a dangerously offensive weapon.

We are told the Police form a service that is ...... a varied, multi-layered, responsive institution working to ensure your safety - the 'your' refers to us MOPs, it isn't inward-looking, self-protecting.


There are currently 168 comments left on Insp Gadget's blog please take the time to read them, if only to see how they highlight what seems to be a widening chasm opening up between the Police and those they're supposed to serve - because the Police is still called a Service - and that's what we expect, a service. And, oddly enough, we also expect them to know the law.

And, as an aside, it's important to remember that we MOPs tend to follow instructions, especially at airports which we're told are very dangerous places these days. We take off our shoes and belts, and bracelets, ear rings, rings and watches whilst waiting patiently in the 'security' queue and we put indescribably small liquid items in a see-through bag. Sometimes we get frisked because a filling or a metal screw in a knee has panicked a machine, or maybe it's because there's a target to chase. We often have our hand luggage publicly dissected by uninterested officials who don't even speak to us and now, at some airports we can be x-rayed - refusal means not being able to travel. All this is meant to deter the bad guys, so we do as we're told.

So why is it that Mrs Rigby hasn't a clue what she and her family, as ordinary members of the public - MOPs - are supposed to do if, and when, one of those 'routinely armed with scarily big guns' black-uniformed Police she sees at an airport shouts out a warning and then instantly opens fire? Should we try to run and hide? Should we throw ourselves to the ground, and try to merge with the floor? Or are we meant to turn into statues in case any small movements are seen as threatening and we're mistakenly identified as a 'target'?



Quiet_Man said...

I can see your point, we've ended up in a society where only the authorities and criminals are armed and the police want more guns despite some serious misgivings on the part of the public (as your links show) as to whether they can be trusted to be responsible with them.
Frankly the evidence seems to show that along with certain members of the public, some police simply can't be trusted with lethal weaponry. Nor it seems do some of them know the law nor can be bothered to enforce it correctly. If they can't do the basics, then they can't be trusted to all be armed.
I note in the replies that inspector gadget dismiss your concerns as going off in a huff.
Well I understand their concerns, but I'm not convinced they can be trusted with firearms, some of them yes, but all of them? Hell no!

Barman said...

Excellent post!

As you rightly point out, the real cause for concern here is why criminals can apparently obtain arms so easily while law-abiding citizens are denied them...

I think we should close that door first before we consider arming the police...

Perhaps they should spend less time harassing photographers and dangerous fork-wielders and a bit more time harassing known criminals and gangs.

Catosays said...

When I joined the Met back in 19----, I predicted that routine arming of police would occur within 10 years. That hasn't happened and despite Gadget's calls for such arming, I can not see it happening.

Having said that, for a number of years I routinely carried a firearm whilst employed on VIP protection. Our training was rigorous as was and indeed still is, the training of ALL coppers licensed to carry a firearm. Any officer seeking such training has, nowadays, to go through a series of psychological testing designed to ensure that he is fit to be trusted with a weapon.

How many of you go abroad for your holidays? In how many of those countries do you see officers carrying weapons? Are you worried about it? I might suggest that you should be because their training is far below the level to which our officers are trained.

And yes, I can hear the cries about innocent Brazilians being shot. Do you seriously imagine, for one instant, that the guys who shot him aren't having nightmares?

Yes, they shot the wrong guy and that is horrific, but they were acting on intelligence which, although incorrect, they believed.

Points are raised, rightly, about citizens being denied access to firearms as a result of knee-jerk legislation. Points are raised, again rightly, about villains having access to firearms. That I'm afraid, regrettable though it is, is what has and will happen.

I'm retired from the police now but if I saw an armed cop in the street, I wouldn't panic and not should you. Believe it or not, the last thing they want to do is to draw the weapon.

Anonymous said...

Cato, from my experiences with the local plod over the last 50 years, I doubt that 10% of would pass a strict psychological assessment for carrying a weapon. I have encountered far too may heavy handed bullies a bit too handy and quick with their fists and feet to trust them with guns.

I have no problem in principle but the quality and attitude of our police officers needs a vast improvement before I would be happy to see them armed.

Between the precautionary principle, the hyperbole about terrorists behind every lamp post and the very poor standard of police officers (generalising) and their prevailing view of us and them, the thought of them routinely armed fills me with dread.

JuliaM said...

"Do you seriously imagine, for one instant, that the guys who shot him aren't having nightmares?"

I don't blame them - much. There's still the issue of the shouted warnings they claim they gave and which no-one on the train backs up (and which would be an utter nonsense anyway, if you are claiming that they needed that lebel of force in the first place).

But the people who screwed up in the ID? The people who lied about his actions (jumping the barrier) to the press?

Are they having nightmares? I suspect the answer is 'No'.

JuliaM said...

"I might suggest that you should be because their training is far below the level to which our officers are trained. "

When one of your firearms guys shoots a civvie sitting in a classroom because he withdrew a live round from the Quality Street tin such ammo was kept in, along with the blanks, you're not really in a position to point fingers, are you?

Catosays said...


With regard to your comments. I agree totally with you about the warnings. None was necessary. The people who lied about his jumping the barriers were, as I recall, people who weren't there.

As to your comment about the Quality Street tin, I have no idea of the incident you're talkiing about. As to pointing fingers, it seems that that is exactly what you're doing.

JuliaM said...

"The people who lied about his jumping the barriers were, as I recall, people who weren't there."

Well, the mouthpiece was our pal Sir Iain Blair.

But who put those words in his mouth?

After all, we now know that those who claimed to be at the scene gave descriptions that did not tally with later evidence...

"As to your comment about the Quality Street tin, I have no idea of the incident you're talkiing about."

Sounds too bizarre to be real?

Sadly, it's not.

Catosays said...

As you quite rightly say, Julia, the mouthpiece was none other than the well known oaf, Sir Ian Blair. Who put the words in his mouth? I have no idea but I'd hazard a guess at one of his staff officers or even the quaintly named Cressida Dick.

As to the Firearms Istructor, he was lucky to escape with a fine. He should have been serving time.

Catosays said...

And the reason I had no knowledge of the Quality St incident was that I was in Australia at the time.

Mrs Rigby said...

@ Q_M - Hopefully it won't happen, but if it does then everybody will be a potential gun-toting thug, which is worse than retaining DNA of non-offenders/witnesses.

@ Barman - There's nothingin the current debate about where these illegal weapons are sourced, and nothing about stopping the trade - just wanting Police able to shoot back. The Police are, or were, civilians with special authority. If they get weapons then why can't the rest of the civilian population have legal weapons, even if it's just for sport.

@ Cato - It would be good to think this call to arm will be unsuccessful, not least because a reasonable proportion of Police are against the idea, and it couldn't be compulsory for religious etc reasons, so there could never be a fully armed constabulary.

Britain's gun laws are just about the strictest in the world, which means that civilians in other countries are allowed access to a greater range of weapons, so more civilians could, legally, be armed or at least have weapons in their vehicles.

Again, the Police seem to think they're the only answer, but would Raoul Moat have been able to walk away as easily if he'd been confronted by an armed civilian?

From what I understand, anybody who has taken, or even failed to save, the life of another person will remember that moment, or those moments, for the rest of their life - and it doesn't only apply to the Police.

@ Anon - No, from comments elsewhere, and not only at IG's place, it's clear that some should never be near a firearm - and for them to have routine access to them is a fearful thought.

@ JuliaM - Tend to agree that one mistake is one too many, and do recall the Quality Street tin incident. Could never understand why the individual kept their job.

John R said...

Excellent article and comments.

On the subject of the police...A while back I had an exchange of views on his blog with Inspector Gadget and others about my view that the police force/service was no longer "my" police force. It was now there with a very internally focussed agenda and to do something other than look after people like me (i.e. boringly ordinary, peaceable, taxpaying, non-criminal, average citizen). After refuting various comments from IG and others that this wasnt true my later comments were rejected....which I think sort-of proved my point.

On arming the population I've had similar experiences on police blogs. They all seem totake the same view as IG - that they should be armed because they encouter dangerous people. The idea that arming the populace would reduce the overall danger level and number of armed assaults is rejected out of hand. This despite all the government produced information from places like the US that those states/cities with strict gun control have much higher gun deaths than those where citizens are routinely armed (where would you rather go out at night, Chicago or Houston?).

It really does seem that the gap between the police and us MOPs is large and growing. The very visible behaviour of officers in all our big cities is now very insular and anti-public. Watch them walk in pairs talking to each other and ignoring those around them if you doubt this. We appear to be no more than obstacles in their path.

Anonymous said...

The disconnect between the Police and the public, the them and us, attitude on blogs such as Gadgets is alarming.

Contributers commenting on the Moat situation criticise members of the army for failing to spot a perspective error in images showing police officers pointing a weapon into cars being searched, with occupants in the cars. Weapon cocked, finger on the trigger.

How many of those clamouring to carry firearms have failed army selection?

Mrs Rigby said...

@ JohnR
Sadly I agree. For some reason or other the Police seems to have allowed themselves to become a separate entity, almost a separate group of people fro the rest of us. And now they seem to want to be paramilitary.

@ Anon
Now there's a question!

We did see the relevant pictures on ARRSE, they did indeed seem to show cocked weapons aimed into cars whilst both passenger and driver were in the front seats. But then maybe the guns weren't loaded, after all a magazine was left in a house they searched.