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1965: British police to be issued with tear gas
Britain's police are to be armed with tear gas guns and grenades to be used against armed criminals or dangerous individuals.

The Home Secretary, Sir Frank Soskice, made the announcement in the House of Commons today.

He assured MPs the gas caused only temporary discomfort with no long-term side-effects.

"Non-toxic tear smoke" already used by the police in the Colonies would be stored at 40 police centres in England and Wales and at six in Scotland.

It is the first time British police are being issued with the "non-lethal weapon" - although London's Metropolitan Police and four other forces have been able to obtain supplies from the military in emergency cases.

Gas against "violently insane"

Sir Frank made clear the chemical would be used only "in dealing with armed criminals or violently insane persons in buildings from which they cannot be dislodged without danger or loss of life".

He said the gas would have no long-term effect on people who came into contact with it.

Sir Edward Dodd, the Chief Inspector of Constabularies, told the BBC tear gas would under no circumstances be used for crowd control.

"The Secretary of State has asked chief constables to report to him the circumstances under which weapons are used whenever it is necessary to use them," he said.

He envisaged it would be used only "two or three times a year".

CS gas was developed at the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment at Porton in Wiltshire.

It is delivered in a grenade or cartridge and has an immediate effect - victims experience watering eyes and blurred vision which wears off as soon as they leave the area affected.

The idea of allowing issue of tear gas to police was first recommended by a working party in 1962.

For the last 10 years, police chiefs have expressed concern about the vulnerability of their officers and members of the public on rare occasions when criminals barricade themselves in buildings and there is no alternative but to send in armed officers.

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Sir Edward Dodd, Chief Inspector of Constabularies
Sir Edward Dodd said tear gas would not be used for crowd control

In Context
Tear gas is widely accepted by police forces around the world as a means of controlling civilian crowds.

British police carry guns or tear gas to deal with sieges, armed robberies, terrorist attacks or diplomatic duties.

However, tear gas was often used against demonstrators at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1970s.

CS gas was used for the first time on the British mainland to control rioters in Toxteth, Liverpool in 1981, but rarely since then.

CS spray was cleared for use in 1996 as a safer alternative to police batons but three forces - Nottinghamshire, Northants and Sussex - still do not use it because of health concerns.

Police and Arms
A 1995 Police Federation survey on police attitudes to armed patrols found:
79% of police officers said they were not in favour of being routinely armed with guns
But 40% said more officers should be trained to use firearms
42% felt their life had been in serious danger as a result of personal threat in the previous two years
39% had been threatened with firearm, knife or other weapon in the previous two years
In the event of a decision to arm all officers 43% said they would be prepared to carry firearms on duty or all of the time
6% said they would resign from the police service if they were ordered to wear a firearm

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