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I wish I could be an armchair hero.

June 8, 2010

I wish I could sit here and solve crimes without leaving the comfort of my home.

I wish I could be able to catch burglars. rapists and murderers simply by making a comment on a media site.

I wish I could have had the foresight to make sure that every armed police officer in Cumbria was in Whitehaven last week at just the right time to prevent a completely unforeseeable sequence of events.

I wish I had the bravery to make derogatory comments about policing in Cumbria and across the  country, without ever having had to do the job.

Instead, I have to listen, watch and read about how more should have been done to prevent a man armed to the teeth from killing twelve innocent people. How police officers should have done this, that and the other. All made by people who have no concept of what goes on outside their lounge.

A few reasonable people have realised that unarmed police officers are not immortal and are not possessed of superhuman powers. The odds were stacked against anyone who came across a man armed with a shotgun. The ballistic protection that we are given is the absolute minimum and at close range, it would probably be ineffective.

This isn’t The Sweeney, or Ashes to Ashes. We don’t have shooters stuck down the waistbands of our trousers. This is a country that baulks at police officers carrying Taser or CS spray, yet when something like this happens, the call goes up for all police to be armed.

I can’t be an armchair hero. I don’t have the time. I’ve got to go and do some real police work and hope that I get home tonight in one piece. I hope that I don’t have to face a man with a gun or a knife. And if I do and live to tell the tale, I hope that some armchair hero doesn’t criticise me for “not doing enough”.

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18 Comments leave one →
  1. MTG permalink
    June 8, 2010 11:31

    So someone is very boring but it is not you?

  2. Ex Chief Inspector permalink
    June 8, 2010 18:51

    There are comments on newspaper websites that would be pure comedy gold until you realise that they are being made in all seriousness. As I have said elsewhere I believe that the police in the UK will eventually be armed as a matter of course. It will just need a couple of significant incidents to do it . I wonder why so many people hold to an ideal that never existed? We are told we should go back to the 60’s as if that was a lost golden age of policing when in reality it was nothing of the sort and there was far more bad behaviour by the police. Most commentators seem to genuinely believe that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and that every other police force in the world would have dealt with the situation far more efficiently. I truly believe that the British public do not really know what they want from the police except that whatever the police do they should only do it to other people and not to them.

    • Anon permalink
      July 1, 2010 10:35

      While I now live in the UK, I originate from a country where all police are routinely armed, I’ve lived in several other countries where police are routinely armed, I’ve extensive military and civilian experience with firearms, and I’ve been involved with refresher firearms training given by the military to police.

      Having seen and experienced the results of routine arming of the police, I much prefer the British model of non-firearms police backed by extremely well trained and disciplined firearms units.

      The country I come from has reasonably well disciplined police but their level of firearms training is mediocre for all but the most elite units. When three of the forces came to the military for refresher training we were horrified to discover most had not fired a weapon in at least five years, many had weapons that were not loaded, had faulty cartridges, were dirty or were severely corroded (eg S&W Model 19 .357 Magnums and S&W Model 10 .38s with their cylinders rusted solid), and few had any idea of firearms discipline.

      At the same time, many officers had high levels of either machismo or indifference in their attitudes to the use of their firearms. Some liked to draw and flourish their sidearms at any excuse, others would never draw theirs for fear they’d have to use it, and still others would use theirs as shelter from their fears and/or prejudices.

      While living in that country, I was always very, very careful when stopped by police because they were armed and there was no way of knowing if it was a good, disciplined officer, a fearful, paranoid one, a lazy imcompetent slacker, or a cowboy who wanted to take someone down.

      However, those officers turned out to be paragons of virtue to the ones I came across next as I made my way around the world.

      In some countries, firearms are extensions of police egos. They’re waved about, shown off to all and sundry, and the biggest, flashiest weapons are signs of status. At the same time, weapons discipline is non-existent. Negligent discharges are common, with officers and passers-by alike more likely to be shot than any armed suspect.

      In other countries, police firearms are weapons of oppression, used to beat the civilian population into submission and keep them there. In some, police officers are well trained in the use of firearms, in others they are not. Regardless, the effect is the same. Police have firearms and they will use them on you at the slightest provocation—either as clubs or to shoot you.

      So it was quite refreshing to move to the UK where I can be reasonably relaxed about approaching an officer or being approached by one. If an officer does have a firearm, I know they’ve been carefully screened and thoroughly trained in its use. I know they’re disciplined and in control of their weapon/s and themselves.

      Of course, mistakes can and do happen but they’re much, much less likely to happen in a situation involving an armed British police officer than in situations involved a typical, front-line armed police officer elsewhere in the world. (Some specialist units can and do approach the British standard.)

      I would not like to see the British police forces take the lowest-common denominator approach to armed policing that prevails elsewhere—and that would happen if all police were armed. The public, the politicians and the beancounters would see to that by insisting on low-cost screening and training to avoid paying the amounts need to filter out all the officers who should not have firearms and to thoroughly train those who should.

      I do think there’s a good case to be made for British police forces to have larger numbers of armed police—or to have reserves of firearms-trained officers who aren’t routinely armed but can be armed at need to meet specific threats and situations.

      I also think there’s a good case to be made for British police officers to have better personal protection equipment. If police are not to be routinely armed with firearms, then it has to be accepted that the trade-off is effective truncheons. effective incapacitating sprays, effective stun weapons (electrical or impact), and effective body armour. And there has to be acceptance that they will be used when the officers on the ground believe it to be appropriate.

      But I would hate to see Britain descend to the level of other countries where the public is wary of approaching an officer or having one approach them for fear of being shot, whether by intent or by accident.

      • Veteran. permalink
        July 28, 2010 22:57

        Anon, the PSNI (formerly the RUC) are all armed as a matter of course and have been since the days of the RIC. I don’t see how your argument can stack up as training is regular (at least every six months) often more for specialist units. Everyone is armed, from desk bound officer / front desk officer / custody sergeant (when on out of station duties) / to patrol officers and TSG / ARV / HMSU. The PSNI are a British police service so as such a portion of the UK police are routinely armed, both on and off duty. So I think it is only a matter of time before the rest of the UK services play catch up.

  3. June 8, 2010 22:47

    Doc

    Would you care to explain exactly what you mean?

  4. MTG permalink
    June 9, 2010 09:23

    I know of no occasion when police boasting, excuse making or “you couldn’t do any better” held any interest.

    The ‘most boring’ award goes to Inspector Gadget and his ilk. Whitehaven police are runners-up .

    These ‘heroes’ are normally bragards. Quick to take on the unarmed and innocent, they will assume the role of medic, first aid attendant, traffic warden or blatant coward to avoid any confrontation with the truly dangerous. Distorted tales emerge of ‘bravery’ and how much better police could perform…if only this or only that……

    Excuse my armchair nap and wake me the moment you discover a real hero on the front line. You are assured of my full attention.

  5. RocketDodger permalink
    June 9, 2010 15:07

    Thank Christ I am no longer a police officer.

    MTG, I’ll give you an honest opinion mate, I never got paid enough to die, especially for people like you.

    • MTG permalink
      June 9, 2010 15:43

      I am not and never will be, your ‘mate’.
      Having seen your comments at Gadget, I add my gratitude to yours that your role in the police has been terminated.

      • RocketDodger permalink
        June 10, 2010 23:44

        Like I give a fuck.

        Those who can, do.

        Those who cant, teach.

        Those who lack the balls to even join come on sites like this and whine, bitch and moan about a job that would leave them shaking in fear if they ever faced half the crap a copper does

        Jog On, Sweetheart.

        Coz no one is listening

  6. Twining permalink
    June 10, 2010 12:28

    MTG – Why such hatred here? Many people can be armchair commentators, but it may not mean a thing. Policing lost another colleague in the line of duty recently, PC Toms…We all can and need to try and talk more reasonably……

  7. MTG permalink
    June 10, 2010 13:54

    Dear Sgt Twining,
    What a false and cowardly defence it is to label citizens ‘police haters’ for their criticisms. Does it follow that critics of police laziness and incompetence are unable to applaud the occasions of successful crime detection or true bravery?

    I do leave praise for good police work on blogs where I may suffer the other extreme of your faulty reasoning.

    Wherever citizen dismay is confused with hatred, I suggest it is intentional. Police have no dialogue whatsoever with true haters and far too many police blogs have become intolerant to any criticism from decent citizens.

    Talk more reasonably and remember your only remaining allies are dwindling.

  8. Twining permalink
    June 10, 2010 14:03

    With respect, have you read some of the nasty comments written by these selected trolls? They are verbatim nasty and vicious. Not once have I written abuse towards yourself. So I am rather surprised at what you are saying. It is good that you leave praise for good police work. I don’t have allies. OK – police blogs should listen, no doubt about that. Who are you saying is leaving a cowardly defence?

  9. TheRozzer permalink
    June 10, 2010 14:28

    Perhaps I’m just getting tired and cynical but I really don’t care what the media say anymore. It happened, it was unexpected, completely random. There is not a police service in the world that could have prevented what was happening. Despite being armed to the teeth our colleagues in the USA cannot stop college kids being slaughtered, so how can we be expected to do anything different.
    Coming face to face with a madman with a shotgun is never going be end well. The Brit police are woefully under equipped and the best they’ve got in that situation is harsh language (tac comms). CS, taser and baton is useless as all require close proximity. Should there be more armed police? It’s not my call. I hope never to have to wear a firearm, but it will come one day. Our cities and major towns all have adequate ARV coverage given the level of gun crime we have, but is it justified for the British bobby to routinely arm themselves in our quaint villages?

  10. June 13, 2010 10:48

    Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, thats the trouble with a lot of MOP and the media these days, it doesn’t matter what Cumbria Police had done that day, it would have been wrong. My heart goes out to all the families, survivors and emergency services, especially the Police Officers that were/are involved

  11. dolph permalink
    June 14, 2010 16:45

    MTG,

    Why don’t you enrol as a Special Constable.

    That way you can see what Police deal with and make better your opinions of the Police.

    I have and it’s certainly opened up my eyes. Widely.

  12. MTG permalink
    June 14, 2010 21:23

    Dear dolph,

    I am sure you are correct in your assertion that enroling as a Special would be eye opening. My quandry is that enrolment with the IRA or UK police is equally attractive. Both have high quotas of dross and liars, so it is a quite a dilemma.

  13. June 14, 2010 21:33

    Dr Grey

    At first, your anti-police comments were quite funny and inspired debate.

    Now you have compared me and my colleagues to one of the most reviled, violent, subversive and murderous groups ever assembled in this country.

    In your own mind, I am sure you can justify your comparison, but this isn’t your blog, it’s mine.

    You put what you like on your space and allow who you want to comment on it. You won’t be welcome here.

    A step too far, Dr – goodbye!

  14. July 3, 2010 14:46

    I’m a MOP, and I wouldn’t have the bravery to do the police’s job. I’m just grateful that there are people prepared to put their lives on the line on a regular basis to protect me and the rest of the public.

    I just hope that more people value our police service than decry it. I suspect that might be the case – just as only bad news is reported, so I believe it is the case with negativity.

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