The Government’s Firearms Review has now concluded after four years – but frontline firearms teams are still not getting the protection in law they deserve, says Gloucestershire Police Federation Chair Mike Harrison.
The review found that post incident procedures conducted following the 2017 terrorist attacks ‘worked well and were quickly concluded’, that the length of time to investigate cases following a fatality can be stressful, but that significant delay had only been recorded in a ‘small number of cases’.
Police Federation leaders had hoped it would address firearms officers often being treated like suspects in the investigations which follow a weapon being fired on duty.
“It’s far from being right that they are suspected immediately, and the assumption is if it happens the officer will start at suspension and look back from there,” Mike said.
“They’re professional officers, they’re highly trained, they’ve gone through weeks, months, years of training, and they deserve the protection of being professional witnesses, professional officers who go out to do a job that we ask them to do, and yet when they do it, they find themselves under the microscope.
“I’ve never met a firearms officer that’s gone out saying they want to shoot someone. They know the risks of carrying a weapon, they know the risks of the jobs they go to.
“But they don’t set out to do it. If they’re called on to pull the trigger, it’s rationalised, it’s a highly analysed situation that’s analysed so very, very quickly. They make that split-second decision and they do job they’re trained to do.”
Pausing and thinking what might happen to them after the incident is not something firearms officers can do – and society wants them to do – when they are confronted by high pressure incidents where lives are at stake, he added.
“Pulling the trigger can’t be a second thought,” he said.
“They should just do the job they’ve been trained to do. They’re professional officers, they’re highly trained and firearms officers’ judgement should be trusted. If they’ve discharged a weapon, their judgement and their rationales should be trusted. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be investigated. Far from it.
“But we need to look at the circumstances and we need to look at everything leading up to that situation. But they’ve been trained. We put our trust in them. Let’s give them that trust back.”