Pretty much the first question I’m always asked by fascinated kids when they’re looking at the kit dangling from my equipment belt is “Do your carry a gun?”.
Nothing I carry looks remotely like any kind of firearm but even so, most children seem to think that in one of my many pouches I’m ‘packing some heat’ and am ready to ‘cook a fool’ if necessity dictates.
Now whilst it’s true that I don’t carry, or have access to, any sort of firearm*, there are officers who do. These toughened lot are what we call ‘Authorised Firearms Officers‘ and provide the West Midlands with a twenty four hour response capability to deal with any incidents which might involve guns.
Becoming a firearms officer is one of the toughest things to do out of all the different roles across the force and as competition is so tight, only the very best even consider applying. The selection process involves a series of tests designed to screen those who have the potential necessary to take on what is a very demanding job and the training that is provided after acceptance is designed to prepare the officer for any situation they may face.
Aside being taught how to use the weapons themselves, officers are given enhanced training in areas such as driving and incident management to ensure the safety of both the public and other officers.
Us regular officers work alongside the firearms officers providing them information about a firearms incident and working to ensure that the danger posed to the public is minimised. Few of us are interested in finding out just how good our ballistic vests are and as I pointed out to a child the other day, our trousers aren’t bullet proof, so we prefer to give anyone thought to be in possession of a gun a wide berth.
Aside dealing with incidents in which people have decided resorting to the use of a gun is the only way of sorting out their differences, firearms officers also have a role in providing education about guns and in taking care of weapons and ammunition when they are recovered during searches. Rather than pick up a found pistol and risk blowing a hole in our feet, we’ll rather call out a firearms car who will make it safe and take it away for disposal.
To understate, firearms are blooming dangerous things and it is in both our interest and that of the public that we can take as many of them off the streets as we are able. Firearms officers are essential to helping us achieve this aim and in dealing with the few who think carrying a gun is a good idea and that using it will get them any further than the inside of a prison cell or worse, a coffin.
* Other than my CS which technically qualifies as a S. 5 firearm.