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NPCC Lead for Armed Policing has said he is confident in the ability of firearms officers to protect the public

18 Nov 2015

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Armed Policing, Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman has responded following national media coverage on 'shoot to kill' and firearms policy following terrorist attacks in Paris

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Armed Policing, Deputy Chief Constable Simon Chesterman said:


“We constantly review how we would respond to terrorist incidents, like the tragic events in Paris last week.  Since the terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008, the UK police service has delivered a significant uplift in armed policing capability and as a result has never been stronger.  It is difficult to openly reassure the public without revealing the extent of our training and equipment to terrorists, however, I can say that all armed response vehicle officers carry 5.56 calibre carbine rifles and a significant amount of ammunition that has been chosen for its penetrative capabilities.  Within the vehicle, they carry a range of ballistic protection and less lethal weapons.  We have also developed a network of Counter-Terrorist Specialist Firearms Officers trained to the highest levels.  We have worked very closely with UK special forces to ensure that we are fully interoperable with them; we established working groups involving special forces advisers to develop and implement effective tactics for terrorist attacks.


“In selecting suitable weaponry and ammunition to address the threat, we considered whether fully automatic weapons were appropriate.  At that stage, we discounted this because the relatively indiscriminate nature of a machine gun compared to a semi-automatic laser-sighted carbine means that they could harm more innocent people.  Our armed officers are carefully selected volunteers who are among the best trained firearms officers in the world.  I am confident in their ability to protect the public.


“Police forces in the UK do not have a ‘ shoot to kill’ policy –  armed officers are trained to use as much force as is reasonable in the circumstances.  Armed officers undergo rigorous training, which allows them to make a judgement call on whether life is at risk.  For the most extreme threats, or if there is no other option, this training includes critical head shots.  We do not shoot to kill, we shoot to stop the threat but inevitably this is highly likely to prove fatal.  Officers must be able to justify that their action amounted to reasonable force to protect themselves or others in a bid to protect human life.


“Capacity is a different issue.  Our numbers of firearms officers across the UK has been modelled on strategic threat and risk assessments that include the threat of a marauding terrorist firearms attack.  The incident in Paris on Friday night demonstrated the terrorist’s ability to bring tactics seen previously in theatres of war to the streets of Europe.  As you would expect, we are now closely examining the incident with a view to assessing its impact upon armed policing.  We will revisit our capability but the more pressing issue is our capacity.  We have the ability to surge significant numbers of firearms officers and can call upon military support, however, this takes time and the time frame of the Paris incident shows that a robust initial response is vital.”


Further information on firearms policy can be found on the College Of Policing website: