Wednesday, 22 July 2009
My last post, Risk Assessments Can Be Risky, was in response to something I read by PC Ellie Bloggs on the subject of the vortex of caution and accountability one can find one`s self being sucked into as a frontline police supervisor. Comments from ex pat, ex Britcop and published author, PC Copperfield (now of an Alberta Canada PD) on that post, showed how much simpler it can be in a country where all police officers are armed with a self loading pistol. It has the effect of raising the threshold so that a call to a possible sighting of a possible firearm doesn't set in motion the command-chain juggernaut that happens in UK PLC. In this way, the more `run of the mill` calls where a firearm `may have been seen` (a very commonplace call) are responded to in a much quicker and less bureaucratic way because all police are armed for their own (and the public's) protection. The spin off is that if the subject happens to be innocent, as in my post's example, he gets a couple of real firearms pointed at him and will be ordered to kneel or lie down in the street (or dragged to the ground if he doesn't comply) and be cuffed while the information given in the original call is checked out. This would happen in the UK in a very similar manner if armed officers are deployed. When this happens to an innocent person in the UK, saying "sorry" is rarely enough, although when this happened to me many years ago my `victim` was just so delighted that we didn't kill him (as would have happened in his own country, Pakistan as it happened) he didn't even complain about his dislocated shoulder, but I think that can be saved for another bedtime story. At least doing things PC Copperfield's way the officer has a fighting chance of surviving if the call turns out to be a bad one. His main point was that the decision to draw the firearm and point it at someone is a matter for the individual officer and that individual officers perception of the threat. One officer might draw his weapon, another may choose to keep her pistol holstered. Up close and personal on the street, only they can decide and in his force in Canada they are given that option. In the UK, at least up until I quit a few years back, the perceived threat of a firearm went through many ranks before a decision was made to either deploy an Armed Response Vehicle or deny it and let the officers on the ground devise their own plan. Sometimes the decision to arm and deploy an ARV was obvious and pretty much instant, but the obvious calls weren't the problem calls - they were also in the minority. I ought to mention that even though a police force might have all its officers armed with sidearms, it still has to maintain `Tactical Units` where the officers are trained to a much higher level of competency and skill at arms than the standard patrol officer. Pre-planned jobs to deal with armed criminals, hostages and the like or counter terrorism tasks right up to the point where the risk assessment is to hand over the situation to military special forces, will always fall to Tactical Firearms Teams, Tactical Advisers and a senior officer in overall command. The junior ranks facing spontaneous firearms or deadly weapon incidents on the street do not have that luxury. Apart from the obvious need for highly skilled professionals to carry firearms, this is also a matter of economics. By having a small number of highly trained officers, a much greater shooting skill level and tactical effectiveness can be achieved as the force can allow much more training time and equipment. If every officer in the UK were armed they would be lucky to receive more than a days training a year on top of the need to requalify once or twice. There would just not be the time allocated to do any more than the very basics. Shooting standards would, as a result, have to be set at a lower level than is currently the case. Training, although an investment, is also viewed as a heavy burden on a force's budget. Something would have to give, somewhere. However, this was not my point, nor was it PC Copperfields either so I'll leave it there. The picture at the top is of a typical English High Street. Information has been received that there will be an armed robbery within a few days, by a team of `top ten nasty` blaggers who are suspected of committing a string of robberies across several force areas. They do not hesitate to shoot security guards, in the legs, who show the slightest resistance. One has already been hospitalised by being blasted by a sawn off shot gun loaded with heavy buckshot - like being shot by nine handguns simultaneously. He was lucky he didn't bleed to death. The informant has told the CID that they plan to hit a security van as it arrives to collect the days takings from two banks. The first is the 2nd to last red brick building on the far side of the street. The second bank is on the opposite side and just a few yards further down. This will happen at about 3pm and the street will look pretty much like it does in the picture, except that a local school will have turned out by this time and there will be a lot of teenagers wending their way home via the shops to add to the crowds of pedestrians. Your task is to devise a plan to arrest the armed robbers. Hint: Uppermost in policy and planning will be the need to ensure you act in the interests of the public, who's safety is always number one, so before you think up the classic police ambush plan remember that if you jump out of cover shouting armed police and someone opens fire at you and a few stray rounds hit a young mother and her 2 yr old child, you'd better have another think before you sign up to that one. I'll leave that as food for thought, after all, I don't have to worry about this stuff anymore. Feel free to submit your questions or plan in the comments section. After all, its just a bit of fun.