Poll evenly split on arming police

SUFFOLK is almost evenly split on the issue of whether the county's police force should be routinely armed.

SUFFOLK is almost evenly split on the issue of whether the county's police force should be routinely armed.

Results from an Evening Star web poll reveal that out of almost 400 people who responded, 48.4 pc (193) felt officers should carry guns while 51.6 pc (206) believed they should not.

The poll was carried out in the wake of the shooting of Nottinghamshire Pc Rachael Bown, who was gunned down while responding to a burglary.

It also follows revelations last week that armed officers are used in Suffolk an average of four times a week. Last Thursday they were called out to Rendlesham where four men, who may have been armed with a gun, were allegedly trying to kidnap a woman. The suspects were arrested by firearms officers in The Street, Eyke.

Detective Inspector Jim Keeble, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said it was his feeling that officers in the county did not want to be armed.

He said: “The Police Federation survey was done about three or four years ago and said that 75 pc of officers nationally did not want to be routinely armed.

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“My feeling is that on the ground that remains the case.

“The level of training someone would have to go to be routinely armed, and as professional as the fire arms officers, would be impossible to achieve with the number of officers we have at the moment and the service to the public would suffer hugely.”

DI Keeble said the use of armed officers was relatively low in Suffolk and said there were concerns that the routine arming of officers could mean the routine arming of criminals.

He also said officers could also suffer severe criticism if they fired shots.

He added: “The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) system seems to almost view police officers with a completely different set of rules to normal members of the public and I don't feel reassured that officers are presumed innocent until proven guilty - they have trial by media.”

He used the example of the case of Jean Charles De Menezes, who was shot dead in London after officers suspected he was a suicide bomber.

Police have received widespread criticism for their actions despite an ongoing IPCC investigation.

DI Keeble said officers would be more reassured about being armed if safeguards were in place to protect them.

N Do you think officers should be routinely armed? Write to: Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to: eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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