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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 December 2005, 02:02 GMT
Police surveyed on carrying guns
Armed police officer
Previous surveys found most officers wanted to remain unarmed
Every police officer in England and Wales is to be asked whether they think they should carry guns.

The Police Federation survey of all 140,000 officers follows the shooting of Pc Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford last month.

Federation chairwoman Jan Berry called for more armed police on the streets.

But Lord Mackenzie, former president of the Superintendents' Association of England and Wales, said that would lead to more violent crime.

Home Office minister Hazel Blears also recently rejected calls for officers to be routinely armed, saying it could endanger the police's relationship with the public.

'Dereliction of duty'

The last such survey by the Federation took place three years ago and only involved 13,000 rank-and-file officers.

It found an overwhelming 79% were against being armed.

Despite rising gun crime, the proportion wanting to carry firearms had increased just 1% since a previous poll in 1995.

Federation chairwoman Jan Berry recently said that even if members rejected being routinely armed, more firearms officers were needed on the streets.

For the police to say they don't want to be armed and to give all sorts of spurious reasons why they shouldn't be armed is a dereliction of duty
Victor Bates

"We should be looking very closely to increasing the number of firearms officers we have," she said in the wake of Pc Beshenivsky's shooting.

"At the moment we have less than five percent trained to carry firearms and we are not convinced that that provides the police service with sufficient resilience."

Victor Bates, whose wife Marian was shot dead during a robbery in their jewellery shop in Nottingham, believes armed officers may have prevented her death.

"If you have got armed police on the street people are not going to circle us as a target as they did that day," he said.

"And I think for the police to say they don't want to be armed and to give all sorts of spurious reasons why they shouldn't be armed, is a dereliction of duty."

'Time not right'

However, Britain's most senior police chief, Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, has said he would like to see the police remain unarmed.

Chris Fox, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, has also said "the time is not right".

Meanwhile, plans by Home Secretary Charles Clarke to modernise policing have come under sustained attack from the Conservatives and Lib Dems.

Mr Clarke wants to merge 43 police forces in England and Wales into as few as 12 regional constabularies.

The plans were announced after a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said forces with fewer than 4,000 officers were not equipped to fight sophisticated modern crime.


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