Posts Tagged 'baton'

No one dared to ask his business, no one dared to make a slip for the stranger there among them had a big iron on his hip…

Should we be given guns? I’m not so sure…

The below article was written early last year but never published. With the tragic shooting of two police officers in Manchester and the subsequent debate on arming police officers now seems an appropriate time to look at the issue and so I’ve edited it to bring it up to date. As for the incident itself I don’t think I can add anything to the words of DCC Thompson over on his blog, take a look if you’ve not done so already.

Should I be given a gun? My immediate answers would be no, I probably shouldn’t be (I’d quickly run out of toes) but should British police officers in general be routinely armed?

In this post, inspired by some of the interest in the subject shown during our Tweet & Greet, I consider whether arming us officers would be beneficial.

The tradition in Britain is that we police by consent. Robert Peel, founder of the Met, stated how important this is to the effectiveness of the police when he included it as part of his ‘Peelian Principles‘.

We are able to police the population because the majority of the public readily support what we are doing and are willing to help us.

The opposite to consent would be coercion. Routinely carrying a firearm I think suggests that there’s no confidence we are able to police by consent alone, something we’ve done successfully for nearly two centuries.

Further to this, having a handgun strapped to the hip represents a huge barrier between the officer and a member of the public. The presence of a firearm is unnerving and it’s not part of our tradition that the option exists at all to readily deploy lethal force.

As Peel thought, ‘the police are the public and the public are the police‘ – issuing us firearms would be a step away from this very important principle.

Speaking to an armed officer is a different interaction to that with a regular bobby and I would argue people would feel less at ease when doing so.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a job when I’ve thought I might want to be carrying a firearm, nor one that I thought the use of a gun might help things. There are situations when the threat is such that we’ll need access to a higher level of force but this is what our armed response units are there to provide.

The majority of the jobs that we deal with, certainly in Walsall, do not necessitate us carrying guns and incidents in which we encounter guns on the streets are very, very rare.

Guns simply aren’t relevant to our role the majority of the time and across the hundreds of thousands of daily interactions between police and public have no part to play.

I think it’s not only that guns don’t seem relevant to my day to day role, it’s also that I joined the police under conditions such that a lethal option was not put at my immediate disposal.

I’m hesitant to use force at the best of times – I’ve not used my CS Spray and have never even drawn my baton. I’d have real reservations about being given a gun.

Currently officers have the option of putting themselves in a position in which one day they might have to take a life, a huge responsibility in itself. Arming every officer takes this choice away – I’d be carrying something that might end someone else’s life and change mine forever.

Debate about arming police officers will always be present, brought to the fore periodically by incidents such as the shooting of PC Sharon Beshenivsky in 2005, Derrick Bird’s rampage in Cumbria the year before last and now the horrific incident in Manchester.

In a 2006 Police Federation survey, over 80% of the 47,000 members asked stated that they did not wish to see officers routinely armed on duty.

Until I see something to address the above concerns about giving us guns, I’ll remain in this 80%.

Everybody was Kung Fu fighting…

A Day In The LifeParading at Walsall Police Station, Friday January 20th 2012, Tour of Duty – 08:30 to 15:30

Once every year all front line police officers are required to attend a ‘Personal Safety Training’ (PST) course to refresh their skills in restraint of prisoners, use of handcuffs, CS spray, batons and the like. Many officers refer to the course as ‘ninja training ‘ and having been a year since I last did a PST course, today was my turn.

First of all for any of you smarty pants readers, the courses are staggered throughout the year so that you don’t get all eight thousand West Midlands officers descending on the gym at Walsall at the same time. That cleared up, what does a PST refresher involve?

The course is two days long and prior to attending we have to complete an online learning package to go over the legal aspects associated with using force. The laws allowing us to use force where necessary and the force policies are then interwoven with the practical exercises over the course itself.

Starting off in the morning – after we’ve drunken some tea – we will have just about got used to the sight of each other wearing tracksuits when we do a few warm up exercises which involve walking in circles, waving our arms and then doing both at the same time.

Sufficiently warmed up/dizzy, we then looked at the correct application of handcuffs. This involved me experiencing a rather skillful ‘take down’ from my partner and hearing the ratchet sound of the cuffs as they locked around my wrists. It’s always a bit of an odd feeling being on the other end of the cuffs but it was a useful reminder of how they feel for when I go back to putting them on other people.

We then start a consolidation exercise building on the inputs from the previous day which involved being given foam batons, training CS canisters filled with water and then being attacked by an aggressor armed with a martial arts pad and a mean attitude. I yelled “GET BACK, STAY BACK”, he didn’t and so I gave a quick burst from my ‘CS’ and then delivered a baton strike to his leg, allowing me then to handcuff him and bring him under control.

Lunch follows and then in the afternoon we spent some time looking at how we can encourage people out of motor vehicles when they’re not keen on joining us on the roadside for a chat. We also did exercises involving ‘cell extractions’ – how to safely put people into or remove people from custody cells – and then we spent some time on searching skills.

The point of the training isn’t so much to teach us how to do things as skills like handcuffing we do all the time, nor is it carried out with the aim that we’ll use every technique we’re shown. Rather it helps ensure that we’re able to use our kit in a safe and effective manner and that should we need it, we have something to fall back on to protect ourselves.

As the trainers say, they give us a ‘box of tools’ which we can pick from as we see necessary. Many of the techniques, especially those involving batons and CS, we hope we never need – I’ve never used either of mine – and it’s quite rightly stressed that the best PST skill of all is talking your way out of a situation.

The day finished with the authorisation cards allowing us to carry our batons and CS being handed out and with this done, we are able to leave the gym and admire the red marks lefts on our wrists by the cuffs!


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