Shock findings show over half of Scots police officers want to carry guns amid surge in assaults

By Jon Hebditch

More than half of Scots cops want to carry guns amid shock figures showing 40 per cent of officers had been assaulted in the last year.

The findings published today by 1919 Magazine reveal 53 per cent of Scots police ranked a handgun in the top five pieces of protective equipment they 'would like'.

A massive 40% have been attacked in the last year and 22 per cent in the last three months.

We reported yesterday how a cop suffered serious head injuries after a baseball bat attack in Paisley.

British police, outside of Northern Ireland, are unusual across the world for not routinely carrying guns.

But there has been backlash from critics who warned that arming the police could lead to a break down in relationships between the force and the public.

Some 1,698 officers were surveyed by the Scottish Police Federation study on personal protective equipment (PPE) shows that 53 per cent of officers surveyed ranked handguns in the top five PPE priorities they “would like” with a taser the first most wanted item at 84%.

Most Scots cops, 60%, said they would be prepared to be trained in and use handguns- although this doesn't mean they'd be routinely armed.

And 47% said they didn't want to carry handguns and 37% didn't want to be trained to use them.

David Hamilton, chair of the Scottish Police Federation, told 1919: “(The figures) show just how real the dangers are to police officers and how vulnerable they feel delivering policing in Scotland.

“The survey shows that Police Scotland's own figures are just the tip of the iceberg. The public will be aghast that 22 per cent of our police officers have been assaulted on duty in the last three months.

“These are sons and daughters, mums and dads, each of whom has taken an oath to serve their communities and keep people safe, but communities have a duty to keep their officers safe too.”

Hamilton added: “Perhaps the biggest shock is that 53 per cent of our officers would like access to a handgun and a further seven per cent would be prepared to be trained in it if necessary.

“This demonstrates not just the frequency of attacks but the gravity of them too.

“Officers consider knives to be the greatest risk to them and firearms are the appropriate last defence to being attacked by such lethal weapons.”

Hamilton said the Norwegian model – where officers do not carry firearms but keep them routinely locked in their patrol cars in case they need them – “deserves to be considered”.

He added: “Few officers want to be routinely armed but in light of these figures, that model of being able to have rapid access to a handgun, when absolutely necessary merits further examination."

But Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP said: “It is essential the police feel secure and properly supported by their armed colleagues but any move towards routinely arming officers with handguns would be disproportionate and risk driving a wedge between officers and communities.

“Nobody is suggesting Police Scotland shouldn't be capable of responding quickly with armed officers when the situation requires it, but it would be a mistake to shift towards a model in which officers were routinely armed.”

Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson Pauline McNeill said:“It is alarming to hear that police in Scotland feel like they need more protection.

“We need to find ways to give officers more protection but more handguns are not the way to go."

Dr Mick North, of the Gun Control Network, said: “It certainly wouldn’t protect the public any more and it’s hard to see how it would protect individual officers, unless there was some change of culture and it became too much like America where you draw your guns for any reason, and that is not the way policing has been conducted in the UK.

“The implications are much wider than what it means to an individual officer on duty.”

Police Scotland Deputy chief constable Fiona Taylor told 1919: “Policing by the consent of our communities is a core element of Police Scotland's principles and there are no plans to move away from being an unarmed service which has an armed capability.”

“Being assaulted is not simply part of the job and tackling the concerning trend of increasing assaults on officers and staff is a priority.

"The Chief Constable has underlined his commitment to supporting operational capabilities by providing our people with the tools they need to do their jobs and he has also committed to continuing our focus on officer and staff safety.

“We have improved our infrastructure to support more take-up of existing taser provision and work is underway to uplift the number of Taser-trained officers by 1,500 over the next three years.

“We are providing armed officers with body worn video and have recently undertaken consultation on a wider roll-out of this important kit.”

ACC Mark Williams said: "Policing with the consent of our communities lies at the heart of all we do and there are no plans to move away from being an unarmed service which has an armed capability.

“Being assaulted should never be part of the job and tackling the concerning trend of increasing assaults on officers and staff is a priority. The Chief Constable has underlined his commitment to achieving this goal by providing our people with the tools they need to do their jobs and he has also committed to continuing our focus on officer and staff safety.

“Recently, we have improved our infrastructure to support an enhanced roll-out of Taser and work is underway to uplift the number of Taser-trained officers by 1,500 over the next three years."


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