Cleveland Police see increase in armed police call-outs

Armed police officers. Picture by Frank Reid
Armed police officers. Picture by Frank Reid

Armed police are being deployed to increasing numbers of incidents in Cleveland.

An “explosion in violent crime” combined with the threat of terrorism has left officers routinely “fearing the worst”, according to the Police Federation of England and Wales.

This has led to them routinely calling for armed assistance when faced with the violent incidents.

The latest Home Office figures show that Cleveland Police conducted 134 armed police operations in the twelve months to March 2018.

This was an increase from the previous year, when armed officers attended 100 operations.

The number of armed police officers has also increased, rising from 49 in 2017 to 52 as of the end of March this year.

However, the numbers have fallen compared to the level they were at five years ago.

Over that period, the figure reached a peak of 58 in 2016.

According to the National Police Chiefs Council, recruitment drives for armed counter-terrorism officers have been ongoing in the areas of England and Wales most at risk from terrorism.

However, a spokeswoman for the Police Federation explained that many forces have been left struggling to recruit enough armed police in recent years.

Some of them, she continued, have also found their existing officers being lured away by the promise of higher salaries in forces such as the Metropolitan Police, which have been on a recruitment drive.

The Home Office data shows that more than a third of police forces in England and Wales saw a reduction in the number of armed officers in their ranks over the last year.

Almost all of these forces recorded a rise in armed police operations over the same period, meaning fewer officers had to attend more calls.

Across England and Wales, the number of armed police operations in the year to March reached 18,746 – the highest number since 2010-11.

Ché Donald, vice-chair and firearms lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “There has been an explosion in violent crime over the past year, with knife crime up by 16%, murders by 12% and gun crime by 2%.

“In this current climate, if officers are called to a violent incident the preferred option is to deploy properly-trained firearms officers to contain the situation.

“All this is set against a backdrop of increased awareness because of recent terrorist events, such as the London Bridge attack and Manchester Arena, which fall into the timescale of this report.

“As a result, there has also been a heightened presence of firearms officers at events and public gatherings around the country to ensure people are kept safe.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said that the Government is providing £144million to increase the numbers and capacity of armed police.

He continued: “The policy in this country has long been that the police should not generally be armed and the number of police operations where firearms are discharged remains low.

“It is for Chief Officers to determine the number of armed officers in their areas.

“The total number of armed officers has risen over the past year, which likely reflects our investment in the armed policing uplift programme.”