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Arming an Unarmed Police: Policy and Practice in the Metropolitan Police

NCJ Number
P A J Waddington
M Weatheritt
Date Published
128 pages
This report, part of a continuing research project commissioned by England's Police Foundation, explores the use of lethal force by police.
Following a discussion on the organization and policies of London's Metropolitan Police, the focus turns to weapons, training, and issues in the use of force by police and whether police should be armed. Clearly, the use of firearms by police is highly controversial. The shooting of anyone, even in apparently justified circumstances, prompts lengthy news reports and criticism by civil liberties groups. It is suggested that more attention be paid to adequate tactical and refresher training for police. An even more critical need is to appropriately train armed police unit commanders so they are fully aware of what various operations armed police officers can and cannot perform safely and what tactical operations are available to them. The demand for the greater firepower of self-loading pistols may be reduced if ammunition issued to police officers has greater stopping power. An alternative to ball ammunition is necessary, since ball ammunition poses a danger to innocent citizens when it is used. The most acute dilemma is not faced by policymakers but rather by police officers who must decide whether to draw their weapon, to take aim, or to open fire. Sometimes, police officers have only a second in which to decide whether to fire their guns; if they make the wrong decision, they may kill someone unnecessarily or be killed. There is a continual need to balance police operational effectiveness against public acceptability and safety. 42 references.