Documents to download

Police use of firearms

What are the issues?

Although police in England and Wales do not routinely carry firearms and incidents where firearms are deployed or shots fired are comparatively rare, the issues surrounding police use of firearms remain controversial. 

The relevant guidance for England and Wales on armed policing, published by the College of Policing, does not refer to shooting to kill but, rather, to a “critical shot” to immediately incapacitate the person.  Incidents in which contact with the police has led to death or serious injury must be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Are the police being held effectively to account?

Criticisms of the current system for investigating complaints about the police, and in particular about fatal police shootings, often concern the reluctance (as some commentators see it) of the Crown Prosecution Service to bring charges against police officers where there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing and of the courts to convict.

Are police officers being treated fairly and reasonably?

Organisations representing police officers, on the other hand, point out the difficulty of the situations that firearms officers may face and the speed with which they must act.  They also highlight other issues of perceived fairness and balance in the investigation process between the rights of bereaved families and those of firearms officers, who may have to take split-second decisions in very tense or volatile situations.

Other briefings on the police, including one on the IPCC, are available on Parliament’s topic page for the police.

Documents to download

Related posts