Police Officers Want Access To Handguns

21 November 2017, 11:07 | Updated: 21 November 2017, 11:08

Armed police

Almost two-thirds of Scotland's police officers want to have access to a handgun, according to new research.

A survey by the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) found that 64% of officers support such a move.

The finding came as around an eighth of the workforce said they believe their existing personal protective equipment (PPE) is "ineffective".

Federation bosses said officers feel "vulnerable and ill-equipped" as they called for change.

The SPF represents 98% of all officers in Scotland, in the ranks of constable, sergeant, inspector and chief inspector, as well as police cadets and special constables.

At its conference in spring, the SPF debated the suitability of the PPE issued to officers by Police Scotland and a more detailed membership study on the issue was authorised.

The findings, published on Tuesday, state that the issue of handguns is "the most controversial" of the options looked at by the study.

Across the force, 64% of officers said they would like to have access to a handgun and 77% said they would be willing to be trained in its use.

Within the 25 to 34 age group, the percentage favouring access to a handgun rose to 73%.

"Younger officers, those most likely to be working in response roles, clearly articulate the risk they feel from firearms and edged weapons," the report stated.

It went on: "When asked whether officers would be prepared to be trained in and use a handgun if required (as opposed to routinely being armed), 77% said they would.

"This is the model currently adopted in Norway where handguns are secured in vehicles but can be quickly accessed by any trained police officer according to the threat faced."

The survey also found that there is "significant under-recording of violence against police officers", with just over half (51%) admitting they do not record all acts of violence against them.

It also looked at the effectiveness of other PPE equipment, such as handcuffs, leg restraints, body armour and batons.

Across all types of equipment, around 12% of respondents said they found them to be ineffective.

Summarising the findings, the survey said: "SPF acknowledges that work has already started on improving officers' PPE and therefore is not making specific demands on the basis of this report.

"The data collected though has given an important and helpful insight from those who use PPE on a daily basis and should be used to shape future policy, training and procurement decisions."

Responding to the findings, SPF vice chair David Hamilton said: "This survey shows the clear capability gap that police officers in Scotland currently have.

"Stretched budgets, low resource levels and an increased threat from criminality and terrorism is making our officers feel vulnerable and ill-equipped to keep people safe.

"Whilst we have some of the best specialist firearms resources in the world, it is the officers responding to day-to-day calls that are at the greatest risk form spontaneous violence. There is nothing in between - we go from nought to SWAT, a situation that must change."

The survey was conducted through an online portal between June 19 and July 24 and was open to all Police Scotland officers. Some 4,260 responses were collated, representing 24% of potential respondents.