Armed police call-outs rise in Lancashire
Armed police are being deployed to more incidents in Lancashire, figures reveal.
Home Office data shows Lancashire Constabulary conducted 214 armed operations in the year to March.
This was up 75 per cent from 2018-19, when there were 122 firearms operations, but down 13 per cent compared to a decade ago
Meanwhile, the number of armed officers in the force rose from 102 to 104 over the period. That was higher than a decade earlier, when there were 94 armed officers in Lancashire’s ranks.
It was a different picture across England and Wales, where the number of firearms officers fell two per cent to 6,518 by March 31, ending a three-year upward trend.
The fall comes despite the Government’s £143m recruitment drive – announced in 2016 in the wake of terrorist attacks in France – to attract 1,500 extra firearms officers over a five-year period.
Nationally, the number of police firearms operations fell for the first time in four years to 19,372, down four per cent from 2018-19. During that time, officers’ guns were fired in just five incidents, eight fewer than the year before.
The most recent period includes the London Bridge attack in November 2019, when convicted terrorist Usman Khan stabbed five people, killing two, in central London. He was shot dead by armed officers.
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for armed policing, Simon Chesterman, said using a weapon is “always a last resort”.
He added: “A mark of the quality of training that armed officers receive is how infrequently they have to use their weapons.
“Our most highly trained armed officers in UK policing, counter terrorism specialist firearms officers, continued to significantly increase in 2019-20 and provide a highly capable and resilient resource to deal with the highest threats in terrorism and serious organised crime.”
Mr Chesterman said an increase in armed response vehicles also means forces can respond to major incidents such as terrorist attacks “faster and with greater numbers”.
Last year, 91 per cent of operations involved an armed response vehicle, the highest proportion since records began.
Despite the dangerous nature of the job, firearms officers, who undergo weeks of training, do not receive a higher salary and can be subject to scrutiny for their actions on duty.
Steve Hartshorn, the Police Federation of England and Wales’ lead on firearms, said armed police are “fully accountable”, and make “split-second decisions based on knowledge, skills, training and reading of situations”.
A Home Office spokesman said armed officer numbers might have been impacted in the short-term by the coronavirus pandemic.
He added: “More than 4,000 officers have already joined as part our pledge to recruit 20,000 additional officers in the next three years and the policing system has been given its biggest funding boost in a decade.”
He also said the multi-million-pound recruitment programme has resulted in a “steady uplift” of armed officers since 2016.