Police Scotland’s national lead for armed policing has outlined the service’s policy on the deployment of firearms officers to MSPs.
Assistant Chief Constable Bernie Higgins said the deployment of firearms officers has been a long-standing feature of policing in Scotland where circumstances deemed an armed response necessary and appropriate. In a letter to Justice spokespeople, ACC Higgins said that since April 1 2013, a Standing Firearm Authority had been in place to allow a limited number of trained Armed Response Vehicle officers to overtly deploy with a handgun and Taser.
He said: “The deployment model allows officers to have a capability to respond and deal with a situation where they may unexpectedly encounter an immediate threat and where a delay in doing so would be detrimental to their own and public safety. It means officers now no longer have to stop on their way to an incident and arm themselves, a process which can take up to 20 minutes. They can now do directly to a scene and provide that immediate protection, which avoids unnecessary risk to the public and unarmed police officers.”
ACC Higgins said there are 531 officers in Scotland trained in the use of firearms and 275, including supervisory officers, are dedicated firearms officers. He said they are deployed on a shift pattern basis and only a small number will be actually on duty at any one time.
ACC Higgins added: “All Police Scotland’s firearms officers are trained to a high standard in line with national guidelines and the weaponry carried by them is securely retained within bespoke approved holsters. These officers are available 24 hours a day to protect the public and are available to respond to incidents in which the deployment of armed officers is assessed as appropriate. When not undertaking their ARV roles, all officers are available to provide support to local policing areas through regular and tasked patrols. There are many examples of how this support augments local community policing, from responding to armed robberies to being first on the scene at serious road traffic accidents and attempted suicide incidents.
“A key aim of police reform was to provide more equal access to specialist support and national capacity across all areas of the country. I am fully satisfied that our armed policing officers are being appropriately deployed in support of the national firearms threat assessment and in support of Local Police Commanders to keep people, places and communities safe.
“The deployment of authorised firearms police officers in circumstances that are deemed proportionate and necessary does not equate to a routine arming of the police.”