ARMED police are being deployed to fewer incidents in Cumbria, government figures have revealed.

Home Office data shows Cumbria Constabulary conducted 60 armed operations in the last year, up to March.

This was down 16 per cent from 2018-19 - when there were 71 firearms operations - and 25 per cent from a decade ago.

Meanwhile, the number of armed officers in the force fell from 86 to 80 over the period. A decade earlier, there were 91 armed officers in Cumbria’s ranks.

The picture across England and Wales was similar, as the number of firearms officers fell two per cent to 6,518 by March 31, ending a three-year upward trend.

The fall comes in spite of a 2016 Government recruitment drive, worth £143 million, to attract 1,500 extra firearms officers over a five-year period.

Nationally, the number of police firearms operations fell for the first time in four years to 19,372, down four per cent from 2018-19. During that time, officers’ guns were fired in just five incidents, eight fewer than the year before.

Commenting on the Home Office figures, Chief Superintendent Rob O’Connor said: “Cumbria remains one of the safest places to live and the number of incidents in which we deploy armed officers is relatively low.

“The safety of the public is our absolutely priority and in order to ensure that we can achieve that, it is sometimes necessary to deploy armed officers.

“Every incident which requires an armed response is always carefully assessed and managed to ensure that we can maximise the safety of the public and our officers and staff during such incidents.

“Although there has also been a slight decrease in the number of armed officers within the force they are deployable across our county and receive continuous training.

“I am a firearms commander myself and have been for a number of years and authorise the deployment of armed officers, and can reassure the public that we have sufficient armed officers within the Constabulary to meet current demand and keep this under constant review."

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for armed policing, Simon Chesterman, said using a weapon is 'always a last resort' and that 'a mark of the quality of training that armed officers receive is how infrequently they have to use their weapons.'

"Our most highly trained armed officers in UK policing, counter terrorism specialist firearms officers, continued to significantly increase in 2019-20 and provide a highly capable and resilient resource to deal with the highest threats in terrorism and serious organised crime."

Mr Chesterman said an increase in armed response vehicles also means forces can respond to major incidents such as terrorist attacks 'faster and with greater numbers'.