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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 17:09 GMT
'Arm beat officers' says police chief
Armed policeman in Nottingham
Armed police patrols have been seen in Nottingham
A senior officer with North Wales Police has said that patrol officers in the UK should be routinely armed.

Speaking in a BBC TV crime special, Assistant Chief Constable Clive Wolfenden said it would be in the interests of the safety of officers, especially in certain areas of major cities.


The public should understand the remarkable achievement of having a predominately unarmed police service in the 21st Century

North Wales Police Assistant Chief Constable Clive Wolfenden

The comments came as the north Wales force was being investigated over the shooting of a man with a plastic bullet in Old Colwyn two weeks ago.

Talking about gun-related crime for Armed and Dangerous, Mr Wolfenden said: "In certain areas, perhaps in big cities where crime is at its worst, and some very dangerous and determined criminals routinely use firearms ... in the interests of police officers' safety, and public safety, it would be best if officers were routinely armed.".

He added that there were "very strong arguments that every officer, every patrol officer" should carry arms.

"The public should understand the remarkable achievement of having a predominately unarmed police service in the 21st Century," he added.

Chief Constable of Thames Valley Peter Neyroud told the programme that the public's impression of British police being unarmed was a "myth".

"We're not routinely armed, but we have the capability and we need to have the capability.

ACC Clive Wolfendale, North Wales Police
Clive Wolfendale fears for officers' safety

"Where you're confronted with someone holding a shotgun or a rifle or a pistol, the only thing that's going to protect you and protect the public effectively is going to be a firearm."

But the suggestion of routine arming of police was criticised by Rex Makin, a solicitor representing the family of schizophrenic Andrew Kernan from Liverpool.

He was shot dead by police in July 2001 as he brandished a Samurai sword.

"Are we to become a gun state like they are in the US," he said.

"It seems to me that some ranks of the police are going a little dotty.

"If they can shoot Andrew Kernan then lord knows who else some trigger-happy policeman will shoot.

In February, a 30-year-old man was hit in the stomach by a baton round fired by an officer with the North Wales force.

Steven Myers was treated in hospital following the incident, but was not seriously hurt.

A plastic bullet displayed by North Wales Police
A plastic bullet was fired by a North Wales officer

He was charged with making a threat to kill, affray, and damaging doors and windows.

It was thought to be the first time that a baton gun had been used by police in the UK - outside of Northern Ireland - since its approval last June.

Police forces across the UK currently employ armed officers for deployment in particularly dangerous situations, such as sieges.

But the idea of routine patrols by armed officers is a controversial one.

In October 2000, armed beat officers were deployed for the first time in Britain by the Nottinghamshire force.

Nottinghamshire Police badge
Armed patrols were introduced in Nottinghamshire in 2000

The scheme, known as Operation Real Estate, was set up in response to a series of drug-related shootings in Nottingham.

Senior officers said the patrols on the St Ann's and Meadows areas of the city were necessary to reassure the local community.

At the time, the Home Office pointed out the power to issue patrolling officers with guns was devolved to each constabulary.

The measure was not intended to be permanent, but armed patrols in Nottingham were stepped up in autumn 2001 following another spate of shootings.

Shops, Robbers and Videotape 2002: Armed and Dangerous can be seen on BBC One at 9pm on Wednesday 13 March.


More news from north east Wales
See also:

23 Oct 00 | UK
02 Mar 02 | Wales
04 Oct 01 | England
17 Jul 01 | UK
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