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Sunday, 05 July 2015

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Cumbria police reveal arsenal to keep armed crime at bay

GUNS available to – but rarely needed by – Cumbria police were displayed at a public event in Barrow.

At a meeting in The Forum yesterday, Inspector Dave Bosson revealed there were around 65 instances in the financial year 2011/12 where police gave authority to arm officers.

Eighteen of those were to provide VIP, diplomatic or royal visits with firearm cover, while others were for the humane destruction of animals – such as those injured on the roadside.

Others were more spontaneous – for example where the public reported a matter and the safest way for police to investigate was with firearms.

However, only two per cent of the 65 instances resulted in a situation where an offender may have used a firearm with criminal intent.

Insp Bosson, who heads up the South Cumbria road policing unit which provides the force’s firearm expertise, said: “Every police force in the country has to have firearms capability.

“There’s always a threat, even in places like here – even if from firearms that are legally kept, or in rural communities where farmers have access to firearms. But Cumbria is one of the safest places to live and work. We are very lucky.”

At the Safer, Better, Stronger meeting, Insp Bosson displayed the guns – all deactivated – available to firearms officers: A 9mm Glock 17 handgun, Heckler and Koch G53 carbine, 36mm Heckler and Koch baton gun, plus the Taser X26.

He said gun crime in Cumbria was among the lowest in the UK and Cumbria police officers had not fired a gun at anyone since 1985 when a gunman in Brampton opened fire and was lawfully killed by officers.

He said Cumbria police take possession of 400 to 500 firearms a year.

Some are handed in at police front offices – perhaps when people do not want to renew a firearms licence – while others are seized during warrants.

When arrests are made for violent offences, if the offender is shown on the police system to have a firearms licence, officers may choose to seize the weapon from the person’s home until criminal proceedings are finished.

Insp Bosson said to become a firearms officer, police must complete a nine-week residential course at police HQ in Penrith – and pass regular re-examinations.

He said: “You’ve got to be very, very fit. The weight of the body armour is twice the weight of that a neighbourhood police officer will wear.

“Firearms officers are tested routinely every 12 months and pass a fitness test to a very high standard.

“After that, they do firearms training every single month. Whether it’s tactics training for vehicle stops, or target shooting on the range at HQ.”

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