armed police

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Trotsky, Sep 16, 2005.

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  1. Below is an article which was written by Roger Gray, the founder member of the Metropolitian Police's armed response unit.

    Gun Law

    In the week that police have been criticised over the death of a Brazilian electrician mistaken for a terrorist, one of Britian's top firearms experts reveals what it's really like for armed officers who put their lives on the line to keep us all safe.

    In July 1994 a man called John O’Brien executed a plan to draw armed police to him at a house in North London. In the course of several hours he took a hostage, fired on police and then he confronted them with a large revolver. Although the armed officers surrounding him had pleaded with him, he raised the gun and was shot six times.
    As the supervising firearms officer at the scene, I heard his last words, saw his injuries and shared the trauma that my officers suffered. The revolver he used fired only blanks but it looked more like the real thing than a large Colt revolver I once saw taken from the hand of an armed robber who had fired real bullets at police. Scratched and poorly plated, that weapon looked like a large, cheap toy.
    In February 1997, one of my officers surrounded the base of Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square. Astride one of the famous lions was a young man with a handgun. None of the officers fired, although he “fulfilled the criteria” several times by aiming at them. Because the public had already been safely removed and there was good cover, a peaceful conclusion was negotiated. The “gun” turned out to be a cigarette lighter.
    These 2 stories illustrate the dilemmas that armed officers in Britain face everyday of their working lives. They are dilemmas which have been brought under intense scrutiny following the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station on July 22.
    Let no one be in any doubt that I, the firearms branch, the police service and, most particularly the officer that fired the shots regret that outcome. But while it is terribly sad that an innocent man has died, what does the officer who shot him now feel? What is he going through? The answer is pure hell.
    Imagine the sensation of falling from a great height towards death, with only one lifeline a hand span away. Imagine being trapped deep below the waves, knowing that you must kick for the distant light of the surface but that you must leave someone to drown below you if you are to survive. Or imagine being caught in a burning building and knowing you must jump, risking serious injury to save your life. Imagine all of this in that micro-second of armed confrontation and you begin to feel what these brave men and women feel.
    When I first became an armed police officer in the mid seventies there was a flexible climate of concealment, an in flexible belief that we should not alarm the public by revealing weaponry until the very last moments before they were required.
    There were then about 75 officers in the core of SO19, the armed response unit of the metropolitan Police or PT17, as it then was. These officers now number in the region of 470. When added to others armed for a variety of less immediate roles, the number is in the region of 2,800.
    With the current terrorist threat, as well as the growing profusion of guns in modern Britain, our police are drawn in to a level of conflict that is essentially military. Paradoxically, this is happening at a time when the military is drawn in to semi-policing roles, such as Iraq.
    Not long ago, former colleagues of mine arrested an extremely violent man for murder by shooting. After a protracted car chase and crash, the vehicle was searched. No gun was found, until a thick-looking pen was more closely examined. It was a gun wit the ability to fire one 9mm bullet.
    In law a firearm is “any leathel barrelled weapon capable of discharging a missile”. But I have seen guns sprayed with lurid colours to look like toys, toys thatlook like guns and non-firearm weapons that could do more damage than examples of the real thing. It is a very hard game. There are even mock mobile phones that are essiestially guns. That is what today’s officers are up against.
    For me the induction process was rudimentary. A few short weeks of training with weapons, scant tactical input and we were tentatively let loose on the public as the first real armed and uniformed patrols in living memory.
    Today, training is much more advanced. A modern officers training lasts only weeks but this qualifies them only to get on the first rung of the ladder.

    To become armed response crews – marked cars carrying uniformed armed officers – they will have to be reselected and undergo a further five weeks training, two of which are focused on the use of the MP5 carbine (it looks like a machine gun to the layman), the much vaunted Tazer and the baton gun. A further three weeks are devoted to tactics.
    Beyond this, regular re-training and assessment will continue seamlessly on a five week rotational basis. The steep learning curve of on-the-street tactical experience then really begins. Officers can go on to higher and totally focused groups and become, through a process of very intense training, a specialist firearms officers (SFO). It is a six week residential course, concentrating on hostage rescue, rapid intervention and ambush skills and drills. Many fail. A further three weeks at a later stage will equip them with maritime, shotgun and abseil qualifications.
    These are the officers often seen in coveralls – or what is often termed colloquially ”Babygros” – sliding down pipes, blowing in doors hooded and masked, then slipping quietly away. Such a team, in “mufti”, were involved in the Stockwell shooting.
    Propriety demands that I cannot make direct reference to this particular case. Instead a hypothetical example. A man has a water pistol that looks like a real self loading handgun. In a crowded shopping centre he robs a shopper at “gunpoint”. The weapon is convincing enough for the victim, who is assaulted in the course of the robbery, to believe it is real.
    The armed officers called to the scene also have every reason to believe the gun is real and face the possibility of an armed robber running in to a department store filled with hundreds of potential victims.
    The officers have but a moment to make a decision while they have a clear target in their sights. That target is the robbers back. Should he shoot, should he not? It’s a life or death decision.
    In that moment of final confrontation, a condition of “perceptual distortion” takes over. Everything seems to slow down as the body’s reactions speed up in the drive to survive. Extraneous sounds are eliminated, pain is vanquished and adversaries seem to come close. Later the police officer who endures all of this will be required to describe it as part of his evidence as soon as someone demands it. (Remember that initially he will suffer all the rigours of what is essentially a criminal investigation).
    When I was writing my book Armed Response, I spoke to many people who opened fire. They were profoundly affected because there is always a price to pay.
    The officer from the Stockwell shooting and his immediate colleagues will be suspended from duty. They will be insulated from the world outside, distanced from their fellow officers. They will be interviewed and counselled and every dimension of their actions will be minutely examined until a decision is made about their fate.
    In the immediate and emotional aftermath those closest to the deceased will, of course, make accusations. In grief they may be expected to hit out. Respectfully, the service largely mute. Anyone who so wishes can make pronunciations of guilt against the police.
    The officers themselves cannot reply because of the sub-judice nature of the enquiry and the process of the internal investigation prevents that. While the officer may have a complete answer, he is prevented from speaking. By the time the matter is aired before the courts, public interest may have waned and the wrong impression allowed to prevail.
    Firearm carrying officer accept that when they take the job that thorough investigation will follow a shooting. They have no illusions about that and they largely welcome it – but not perhaps in the form which it has evolved. An atmosphere of oppression is settling over these courageous men and women.
    With the challenge of thousand of armed calls annually, for the last three years British police have shot suspects an average of 3 times per year, with one fatality. Compared with other countries that is most favourable.
    In one London borough alone there were 22 shootings between January and June this year. In a week of night duty performed recently in the same area, an old colleague of mine was privy to five shootings, two of which were fatal.
    In North London, Operation Trident struggles to contain the ebb and flow of inter gang gunfire.
    In such places as Afghanistan and India, skilled local workers using rudimentary tools have learned to produce fully functional weapons of almost any kind, requiring only an original to copy. They look so good that the repeated serial number is often the only giveaway.
    I have often seen as many weapons from the Eastern bloc as firearms from our own history.
    One man, who was shot dead outside a South London crack house, had several bullets in him, ranging from a 9mm to one from the First World War.
    Armed uniformed police now commonly patrol Britain. For the first time in recent history, uniform foot patrol officers have carried firearms. Shooting go unreported either to the police or by the media. Its no longer hot news.
    But the current climate is such that the number of applicants for firearm duties is plummeting. Existing officers with these skills are examining their position. These are not merely my thoughts – they are the opinions of those who do the job day in, day out.
    We must value such men and women much higher and take into account the incredible amount of stresses they endure.
    If ever we make the task so onerous that they walk away, who will replace them?

    I found this elsewhere on the net, your thoughts?

  2. I have never had any doubts that firearms officers are the bravest and most professional members of any police force. As Gray describes, the snap decisions required and the public backlash that accompanies each and every shot fired, put these officers in a particularly unenviable position. It is not a job I wold like to do, and I salute those people who do it.

    The officer who took down the brazillian chap on the train will be currently going through hell for carrying out actions he was trained to do, with the information that he was given and the situation he found himself. Any other officer in the same situation, given the same information and the belief that this chap was a suicide bomber would and should do the same thing again. The consequencies of not doing so are immense.
  3. Have there been any more developments in the Harry Stanely case?
    The last there was a mention of it on Arrse it produced quite few emotive responses from some of us on both sides of the "have the police got it right" divide.
  4. Can't disagree with anything that has been said. There are not any winners here, only losers.

    Nonetheless the problem goes with the job and we would be on a slippery slope if we exempted policemen from the obeying the laws they are paid to uphold. There must be an investigation and if there is evidence of the shooting being malicious or negligent then there must be a trial. Perhaps not of the firearms officer, after all we don't know what he had been told about the victim. The comparisons with events where people were waving guns about are a bit spurious. We know this guy had no weapon. We now know that he didn't leap the barriers, didn't threaten any officers, wasn't wearing a bulky jacket, etc So what we need to wait for is why was it that he was shot. Perhaps there was a good reason, but we can't simply accept that there was when an innocent man has been killed.
  5. I agree, it is a difficult call, however the same measure of justice must be applied to the officers concerned as was applied to MOD personnel such as Pte Glegg. To do otherwise would be allowing a totally different level of justice to prevail.

    For some people the act of having to take another individuals life in the course of duty is not just difficult, but tinged with the hollow afterthoughts of thinking that it might have been different! The officer(s) involved in the tube op must be going through this mental trauma this very minute. Hopefully the resultant BoI will find that there was no other alternative.

    Personally the purpose of terrorists is to terrorise if allowed. They cannot be allowed to complete this. MOD, CivPol or other agencies hopefully will put this 'nasty' to bed in the not too distant future.
  6. Roger Gray's book, The Trojan Files, is well worth a read.

  7. Must have a hell of a reach . . .

    Is that where the phrase "long arm of the law" comes from?
  8. maybe he was just really fat?
  9. The Man on the spot doing his duty must receive the benifit of the doubt. Armed Police officers are special selected and trained they are not trigger happy thugs, but Professionals who above all will understand the consequences of their actions.
    They are there to protect us, they must have our support.
    They are the last line of defnce.
  10. Thought the same myself, but it seemed like a serious post so I didn't mention it. I suppose I should have known better :) Incidentally, my (limited) research suggests that the oficer had arms about 34.5 feet long. That's even longer than RAF Reg!
  11. Similar incidents out here always bring out calls for "making the police more accountable for their actions" - if only those whinging dipshits knew what actually occurred post shooting they might shut it. Fatal shootings by officers out here generate a disproportionate media response compared to the opposite. It also usually brings renewed calls for sublethal alternatives for officers to carry in addition to pistols, usually from police spokespeople begging for better equipment/funding.

    Far, far too many good officers leave burnt out and many potentially excellent individuals decide against becoming police officers due to the unnecessary bullshit and hassle of modern policing.The politicians mouth platitudes about being "tough on crime" but neglect to increase the police budget. I personally feel that the more offensive/defensive weaponry options, training and support the police have in carrying out their duty the better the outcome for the entire community. Then again what would I know about important things like that. I am just a female :wink:
  12. A policeman without a gun is looking for an excuse to get shot.
  13. Agree totally with the article. I have the deepest respect for these guys.

    I have a few friends who are ARV policemen and have worked with them. They have a very hard job - but is it any different than a soldier carrying a weapon on the streets of Kosovo for example? Does that Private soldier have the intense 10 to 15 weeks specialist training in the armed police role? I think not. APWT and a bit of UNTAT trg if he's lucky.

    So, yes the armed police role is a very important and difficult job, but are we, as peacekeeping soldiers, any different?

  14. Yes, Armed Police do a dangerous, essential job. So do squaddies. There are squaddies in Iraq who are doing a far more dangerous job than Armed Police, and usually for less money.
    I have no problem with supporting the police, armed or otherwise. I do have a problem with people who somehow think Armed Police are a special case, that they should never be brought to account for fatel mistakes.
    If a squaddie in Iraq shoots a civilian, how far do you think he'll get with a defence like: I was tired/scared/under pressure/stressed out/had dodgy intel/only had seconds to make the decision? It did'nt work for Lee Clegg. He had to spend several years in jail before the Men in Wigs saw sense and released him. And let's not forget the Bloody Sunday enquiry which cost over £200 million of tax-payer's money and achieved sod-all, apart from a propaganda boost for Sien Fienn/IRA.
    If you give immunity from prosecution to Armed Police, you have to give it to every teeth-arm squaddie and marine on active service as well. Both groups are volunteers who face dangerous situations in defence of their country and the general public. Neither one can be held superior to the other.
  15. Shuttup - A policeman without a gun hasnt done his 6 week course!

    How many unarmed policemen have been shot recently devil_dog?
    Write a lot of government policy do you?
    Shall we leave certain areas of the countries administration to other people then?

    (written on the basis of lots of Stella and reading Devil_Dogs contributions in other threads)