Police chiefs and politicians reject calls to routinely arm officers

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POLITICAL leaders have moved to resist pressure to routinely arm the British police in the wake of the tragedy.

Grieving relatives of PC Sharon Beshenivsky, who was shot dead in Bradford during an armed robbery in 2005, and PC David Rathband, who was shot and blinded by Raoul Moat in July 2010 before he was found dead at his home 17 months later, have led the calls for police to now carry weapons following Tuesday’s gun and grenade attack.

Paul Beshenivsky, whose 38-year-old wife was shot and killed on her youngest daughter’s fourth birthday as she responded to an alarm call in the city, said: “I think policing, as regarding going to scenes of crimes, should be monitored better, and I think police, in honesty, should be armed walking into situations that they’re not totally aware of.”

However Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper yesterday warned against the move.

Mr Clegg said it would carry “considerable risks” and could damage relations between police and the communities they serve.

“I don’t think this is the time to rush to instant judgments,” he added.

“This really is a time for mourning and support, of course, for the family and friends of the two women who have been killed.

“We have a long tradition in this country, which is a great tradition, of policing in the community, of the police being part of the public and the public supporting and giving their consent to the police.

“I think if we were, in an instant, to, in a sense, arm our police to the teeth so they become separate from the public, that would be quite a big change which would have considerable risks attached to it.

“I think it is the kind of thing that you need to look at very carefully and certainly not, even though I know emotions are running high, in an instant way after this terrible tragedy.”

A Police Federation survey in 2006 found 82 per cent of officers were against routinely arming themselves, while yesterday the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Hugh Orde, also spoke out against any potential change, saying guns “don’t necessarily solve the problem”.

Sir Hugh said it is the “clear view of the British police service from top to bottom” that officers prefer to be unarmed in public.

The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester has also rejected calls for more guns on the streets.

Sir Peter Fahy said: ‘We are passionate that the British style of policing is routinely unarmed.”