A foray in the United States confirmed what many already knew, Americans are deathly afraid of their police force. Why? Undoubtedly because they are armed to the teeth with artillery. Our police force? Not so much. As evidenced by the mass riots which took place in London just over a year ago, and the more recent death of two police officers in Manchester at the hands of gun crime…
“Your police officers don’t have guns?!” exclaimed a group of thoroughly shocked Americans during the course of one of our UK vs. US comparisons, before going on to add that if US police officers didn’t have guns there would be anarchy twenty-four-seven.
It’s the single, stand out feature that produces a wealth of a gap between the British police and their counterparts in other countries. And yet it remains thoroughly unremarkable to the British public. That is, until unarmed officers like Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone are shot dead in the line of duty.
But would an arming of the police result in any positive repercussions?
Home secretary Theresa May suggests that it wouldn’t, stating “I think we are clear we have a British model of policing that is one that our police very much support… I don’t think this is the time to be calling for the arming of police.”
But what is the logic behind this?
In a country where there are 90 guns for every 100 Americans and around 85 fatal shootings a day, it would make no sense for the police not to be armed, when the public themselves are.
But in the UK, a country where firearms are tightly controlled by the law, with only 388 firearm offences in which there was a fatal or serious injury in 2010-11, do we really need to introduce such a final decision making of a weapon into the police force?
Arguably, why fight fire with a grenade if the fire can be put out with less extreme of a method?
Greater Manchester Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy supported this notion, arguing: “We are passionate that the British style of policing is routinely unarmed policing. Sadly we know from the experience in America and other countries that having armed officers certainly does not mean, sadly, that police officers do not end up getting shot.”
This is a position shared by 82% of the Police Federation members who were asked their stance on the situation in a survey carried out in 2006.
Undeniably, the public should feel some element of fear towards the police. But is a gun really necessary in order to instill that? Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg suggested that arming the force would bring with it a big change in policing culture, one that could bring with it considerable risks, with several suggesting that this would undermine the principle of policing by consent, and would send the message that the force owes its primary duty to the state, rather than to the public.
And, question of fear aside, why put dangerous elements onto the road even more than they are already present? Carrying a gun brings with it the responsibility to shoot, if need be. It also brings with it the responsibility of protecting that gun, lest it be used against you.
But many disagree. Darren Rathband, twin brother of police officer David Rathband who was shot and blinded by a fugitive said, “How many officers need to die before the powers realise that it is the 21st century and you cannot fight crime with an outdated piece of plastic and a bit of spray.”
What do you guys think? Does an eye for an eye make the whole world blind, or do the police really need to have a one up?
Words by Alya Mooro