Tam's Tall Tales

- Armed Police More Visible in Scotland

'Allo, 'allo 'allo - Mind my Shooter, Son'
Remember PC Murdoch in the Oor Wullie cartoon strip? A genial chap in a helmet was the folksy image that seemed to chime with the Scottish psyche. (Even though Scottish police have not worn helmets in living memory - and even English police forces are moving away from the imposing helmets.)

That image has changed a lot recently. When the Scottish police was reorganised last year with local forces being amalgamated into Police Scotland the top job went to Sir Stephen House who seems to be a bit of a latter day Rambo.

Although there has been reluctant acceptance of police, armed with sub-machine guns wandering around our airports, last year there was quite a ruckus when there were lots of cases where armed police were being used to do the normal sort of mundane jobs such as directing tourists to attractions or comforting infants who had momentarily become detached from Mum.

Sir Stephen's initial response to criticism was that he wanted the public to become closer to the nice people in the Armed Response teams: "I don't want people to get the idea that these fire arms officers stand off and are not police officers [and] actually are some sort of paramilitary .

."they are police officers. They joined the police. They have got many years service. They are experienced officers whose judgement is well trusted and they put themselves through very gruelling firearms selection courses and training courses. But they remain police officers. I would not want it any other way."

That did not wash and after public disquiet the police promised the politicians that they would go back to the normal unarmed patrols. The police pledged to restrict specialist armed police to firearms incidents or where there is a threat to life.

Despite that assurance, recent figures suggest that armed police are still attending to many non-threatening incidents. Many politicians feel that Sir Stephen redefined the long-standing convention of policing by consent by an unthreatening force.

Please give me whatever feedback comes to mind via tamfromrampant@gmail.com.

Tam O'Ranter
March 2015

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