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Firearms Or Flags – The Routine Arming Debate

Posted on the 21 September 2012 by Minimumcover @minimumcover

Back in July my team were fewer in number than normal. For once it wasn’t directly to do with government cuts, pointless training days.

In an attempt to counter some highly critical articles in the press, the bosses had decided to allow a few of our number to join similar groups from teams based in other parts of the division. Together they were to target a couple of high-profile villains who were running amok, breaking into two or three houses a night and causing untold misery to family after family in the hope of grabbing enough gear to make a quick profit and shrink back into the shadows before being caught.

Unfortunately this plan was not perfectly conceived. As the operation began, the intelligence team were almost immediately, and without warning, re-deployed to the other side of the city to help with a drug war that was developing on one of the estates. That meant we were now running partially blind, but it didn’t change the plan. We had recent information to work from, but were going to lose the benefit of live information from those with contacts close to our targets. If the crims got wind of our plan, we wouldn’t have a clue.

As it turned out, those on the operation were going to be completely on their own. Night after night the response teams were run off their feet and were never really in a position to offer much backup. But the time was right and the victims were mounting so it was a case of making the best of what we had.

As the week went on the hybrid team attempted to put themselves where the right place and the right time. Armed with nothing more than intuition, knowledge of the offenders and their recent targets they sought and eventually caught those responsible for the crimes.

While this was going on, the remainder of my team dealt with the routine business of Policing. We carried the shortfall and covered the gaps as best we could. We did it because we knew that it needed doing. The break-ins needed stopping and this was going to be the only way to stand a decent chance of success.

During that set of shifts I can remember at least two occasions where I chose to take a prisoner to the cells in the back of a car when a van would usually have been the vehicle of choice. Others went to incidents on their own that would normally have been attended by a double-crewed car. We all survived the week without getting stabbed, strangled or shot.

This was, as has become crystal clear in the last couple of days, not because we had the right equipment, lightning reflexes or up to date self-defence training. It was simply because we were lucky that no one decided to put us in the cross-hairs and squeeze. Had anyone decided to go out in a Cregan-esque blaze of glory we would have been powerless.

The fact that so many of us go about out duties day in, day out without sustaining so much as a scratch is reassuring to some degree, but this should not be the reason to leave things as they are. The fact is that there ARE people out there who will call the Police with the intention of ambushing them when they come. There ARE people out there who will deliberately create a situation where they have better weapons and the element of surprise.

These people, unless things change, will continue to win every battle they fight until the playing field gets levelled.

The boss of the blogs, Inspector Gadget, said yesterday that this is precisely the time when a debate on routine arming should be held. I could not agree more. Reports that one of the two officers slain in Manchester had drawn a Taser in those terrifying few seconds would indicate that there had been a moment when it might have been possible to fight back. The shots may have missed and the outcome may not have changed, but surely that officer and her partner at the time deserved that slim chance at survival.

I fully support the arming of Police in England and Wales. I refuse to believe that the country will decent into ghetto-dom the minute officers start strapping a 9mm pistol onto their belt at the start of their duty. We, as a country, need to get past the endless comparisons to Policing in the USA and open our eyes to the reality of what has happened this week.

It will happen again. The question is simply how many times is too many times…

Dale Cregan has now been charged with the murders of Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes as well as the murders of father and son David and Mark Short earlier in the year. No punishment available in the country is sufficient for his crimes…

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