Job Vacancy for a Police Superintendent in Kendal

I’m not sure they’ll still be accepting applications for this job and its tempting salary!  But either way….. No perquisites! 😀

Job available for a police superintendent in Kendal, Cumbria, in 1844.

Should the British Police all be Armed?

Terrorists are known to select targets which give them maximum publicity and this week’s attack at Westminster in London, at a globally-known landmark, with four victims killed from a total of three countries and injured people from 11 different countries, certainly created global news.

Now, in the immediate aftermath, it is accurate to say that media companies are still seeking every angle on the story.  Here in the Border Television region of Northern England and Southern Scotland, the question is being asked:  Should all police officers in our relevant counties be routinely armed?

.        Armed Police in Newcastle (Photo: ITV)

Many members of the public now believe that arming the police would be a good thing, although it needs to be said that many were against the presence of armed officers at a 2016 Christmas Fair in Newcastle (see the above photograph) because it was so out-of-keeping with the nature of the event.  Yet it also needs to be said that such events clearly do present themselves as potential targets from a terrorist point of view.  So there is a distinct clash of public opinions on this issue.

I joined the police back in the early 1970s and from the outset was of the stated opinion that if the British police, as a whole, were permanently armed during the period of my service, I would resign on principle.

Are the British police perfect?  No, not by some distance, but they still rightly are the envy of many developed nations and iconic in their typical absence of firearms, other than on targeted protection duties.

As tragic as the death of PC 4157U Keith Palmer was, two days ago, it has to be said that almost certainly he was the only person injured or killed as a result of not every police officer at the Westminster location being armed, and it is possible he might not have been able to save himself even if he’d had a gun, if he was caught unawares.  It is unlikely in the extreme that the police would have fired shots at the car when it was among pedestrians and other vehicles on Westminster Bridge where all of the other injuries and deaths occurred, and in any event that did not happen.

Would the permanent arming of all police officers throughout Britain prevent terrorist attacks or the lone-wolf attacks of mentally unstable people?  Quite clearly not, otherwise there would have been no attacks in France or Germany or any other countries where all the police are armed.

Aside from terrorism, Britain’s serious crime squads naturally do carry firearms whenever deemed necessary, but that is not what this is about.

One key question is: Would arming all police officers reduce the number of officers who are murdered on duty?  This is a very appealing conclusion to draw.  However, based on the information given in the source shown in paragraph (b) in the below footnotes, ‘only’ about 134 British police officers have been the victims of deliberately intended deaths in the 117 years since the start of the year 1900 — an average of 1.145 officers per year.  (Note that this does not include over 300 police victims of the euphemistically-named ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland or of IRA bombs in England.)  This question therefore is whether arming all British police officers would be likely to reduce the remarkably low number of officers who are deliberately killed on what can be classed as normal duties.

Would there be any disadvantages to arming all British police officers?  Three that stand out are:

  1. It is argued, with some justification, that criminals committing serious crimes are more likely to carry firearms to aid their escape if they know the police will be armed.  This clearly increases the danger for anyone in the vicinity;
  2. As soon as a police officer with a handgun gets into a physical confrontation, there is a danger that the person or people he/she is fighting with will try to take away the firearm and could potentially use it against the officer, a particular risk if drunk, drugged or mentally unstable people are involved.  This, in turn, is more likely to cause officers to use their weapon themselves.  Again, the dangers increase dramatically.  Please view the 15 October 2016 article in the footnotes below, and you will see that in just one year there were an estimated 23,000 assaults against British police officers.  I cannot believe for one minute that if guns had been carried at all of these events there would have been no lethal outcomes;
  3. It is, in my opinion, inevitable that at least some crime suspects would end up being shot when a gun-free policing approach would otherwise have brought them in alive.  This, of course, isn’t a criticism of the guns, per se, but of the fact that with any very large body of armed officers some will inevitably interpret and apply the relevant rules and laws, shall we say, “a little too freely.”  Other countries’ police forces already provide repeated examples of this undesirable situation.

At the opposite extreme to the current state of affairs in Britain, it is a fact that in just 20 days during January 2016, police officers in the USA shot and killed more people than had been shot and killed by the police in Britain in the previous 25 years!  I’m not pretending that either country is like the other but with a population ratio of just 5:1 the disparity is so cataclysmic that in Britain we really must ask ourselves whether we wish to risk heading in that direction.

This is an important topic.  Please feel free to add your comments at the foot of this page (polite and sensible only, please).  Or just a ‘Yes’ for arming all police officers or a ‘No’ for not doing so will suffice!

Steve Shearwater

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Related topic: Roll of Honour for Cumbria Police Officers

Footnotes:

a)  How many British police officers are harmed in the line of duty?          “The Home Office estimates there were 23,000 assaults against officers in 2014/15, and (in the then 70 years) since 1945 more than 250 officers [see below] have been fatally shot… [Between 2010 and October 2015], 11 officers of the Metropolitan police lost their lives in the line of duty.”  The Guardian. 15 October 2015

b)  It looks possible that the above claim that “since 1945 more than 250 officers have been fatally shot” may be misleading because a separate, seemingly well-sourced list shows that a total of ‘just’ 260 officers have been killed as a result of criminals’ actions between 1900 and 2016 (of whom 68 officers were shot and 23 stabbed).  Of these 260 deaths, however, ‘only’ about half of them (i.e. 129) appear to have died as a result of deliberate assaults by an offender, as opposed to say deaths that occurred during pursuits.  This latter list, however, excludes those officers killed in the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland which may explain the aforementioned apparent disparity in overall numbers.

 

 

Fellow Police Officers’ Opinions of my Police Novel

First posted: 1 March, 2017

If I had trepidation when my police novel ‘My Cup Runneth Over’ was first published almost four months ago — and believe me I did — I can guarantee that at least 90 per cent of that worry was the fear about what my former police colleagues would make of it!  I had no doubt whatsoever that they could potentially become my fiercest critics.  It seems to be a result of the job, or perhaps a qualification for it, that police officers can be both critical by nature and never shy to voice their opinion.  (Don’t tell them I said that 😀 )

Cumbria Constabulary 'day' helmet (night helmets have or had a black badge and crown to make them a little less conspicuous)
Cumbria Constabulary ‘day’ helmet (night helmets have or had a black badge and crown to make them a little less conspicuous)

Buy a copy of the book (also available on Kindle)

We all know that novels must typically omit boring routine and thus condense action into a far shorter time span than that in which it will probably occur in reality, and also that at least some exaggeration is equally essential in order to maintain a good story.  In this sense, the enjoyable Inspector Morse television series always made me laugh:  Not only did Morse and Lewis deal with murders in Oxford at a rate that would have represented a national epidemic of homicides, let alone in such a relatively nice city, but those two men inevitably solved the crimes with little assistance in what would inevitably have been scenarios involving dozens and maybe sometimes hundreds of officers.  And they achieved it within the duration of one or at most two television episodes, too, instead of sometimes needing months of graft.  Oh, and Morse’s reluctance to reveal his first name was farcical — it would have to be used on every report and statement he ever wrote, let alone announced each time he gave evidence in court — but it made for a good story.  Yet addressing that ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ by readers is part of how popular stories are written.

Anyway, just as I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the comments all people have made about my novel, so I have been stunned by the great reception it has received from those ‘dreaded’ police officers!  I’m not a fan of repetition but this aspect to me is so special that here are highlights of their reviews to date (oldest first):

2016

13 December 2016, Mr M.A. Johnston: “A brilliantly written book… The book is written, and reads, very much along the lines of the James Herriot books, and in my view is equally as well written and laid out…  if you only buy one book to read this Christmas make it this one. You won’t be disappointed.

16 December 2016, James Wilson:  “I sat and read [your book] in one sitting, really enjoyed it.  Rural policing as it should be.  Looking forward to the next installment…

2017

5 January 2017, Cliff Heaney (retired sergeant): “I have just completed the last few chapters of your book My Cup Runneth Over and felt compelled to let you know how much I enjoyed reading it.   As a retired police officer myself from that era it felt like I had been transported back in time. It was as if I was stood there beside you at some of the incidents and events you describe.
The highs and lows of policing do leave their mark on the people you deal with and the individual officers themselves. To my mind you have done an excellent job telling the stories the way you have, that in turn create the memories that an old copper like me can relate too. Thank you for that and good luck with the book. I’ll be on the look out for your next one!

5 January 2017, John Forrester:  “I’m enjoying every word.” – and, (in response to the above from Cliff Heaney) I echo the same sentiment, as a retired sergeant [myself]. I’m also on the last couple of chapters and can relate to the incidents etc. A riveting read.” 

7 January 2017, John Thorburn:  “I thought it was brill’, a little rumour, a little true life and lots of fun as we had in those days…

24 January 2017, Dick Base:  “Good read, My Cup Runneth Over… It has certainly made me reminisce.

Alan Gardner:  “I have just finished reading your book and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I have for some time been writing a few stories that jumped to mind about my own time in the police. mainly for my grandchildren to read… Have to say however, that I’m not in the same writing league as you…

Peter Lilley:  “Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book.  My father, Jack Lilley, was inspector at Keswick from 1959 until his death in 1967, during which time we lived at the police station.  Your stories brought many happy memories of accompanying my father on his frequent visits to outlying farms and his regular weekly ‘points’ with the village bobbies.  It was great fun trying to identify the locations used in your yarns!  Dad was also a member of Keswick Mountain Rescue Team – all your tales of the goings on and local events rang so true!  When’s the next book due out?  Can’t wait!” 

26 January 2017, David Mayer [USA]:  “Very good book and easy to read.  I would recommend this to anyone, it’s a good insight to the policing in a rural place in the Lake District, very funny with some of the stories. Well done Steve.”

11 February 2017, Keith Meadley:  “…Very good, keep it up with the next one.

13 February 2017, David Drinkald:  “As a retired Police Officer… I found this an enjoyable read.   As in any fictional account of Police activity events are exaggerated, however there is nothing here that couldn’t have happened, probably not involving just the leading character however… I hope the author gets round to writing a follow up.  I started reading one of the novels that led to the Heartbeat T.V. series years ago.  My Cup Runneth Over is much better…”

23 February 2017, Tony Cleasby:  “I enjoyed your novel ‘My Cup Runneth Over’.  Any more books in the pipeline?”

1 March 2017, David Albert:  “I enjoyed every page. Recognised myself a few times, ha ha.

8 March 2017, Andy Soper:  “…Picture the scene… it’s a late night flight and my seat is in the middle of a Boeing 737!  It’s dark, it’s quiet and I get to the chapter in the book dealing with the unfortunate Wodger Wankin! [For my laughing out loud,] I certainly received a couple of very good ‘thwacks’ from the missus sitting next to me!  As a retired Cumbria Constable and a Rural Officer to boot, this book brought it all flooding back! … This is a very, very enjoyable read and I look forward to the next one.”

14 March 2017, Mark Jenkins:  “Just read the book on holiday on Kindle. A cracking read.”

28 March 2017, Martin Buckmaster:  “I’ve just finished your wonderful book. I enjoyed every page as it brought back lots of memories from years ago when I lived at Fieldhead near Hawkshead… The book is amazing, thank you so much for writing it. Will there be any more? I do hope so, you’re a fantastic author.”

29 Mar. 2017, also Martin Buckmaster: A beautiful book very well written  This book is truly amazing in its accuracy and descriptions.  I loved every page as I found that it brought back an awful lot of memories from the early days of my own Police service in the mid sixtees.  I admit struggling with some of the place names having lived and worked for many years in the southern Lake District and I still haven’t got there yet.  A lovely, gentle story line that held me totally in it’s grip for the entire book, I sincerely hope that we will see some more books as good as this one is.  I highly recommend this book to everyone, thank you Steve

2 April 2017,  Heather Wilkinson “Dad [former Chief Superintendent Eric Greenslade] said that your book took him back to the old days, he loved it.

28 June 2017, Roger Salmon  “Just finished your book ‘My cup runneth over’. Thoroughly enjoyed it and brought back memories of my cadetship and early years. When is the next book out please?

Buy a copy of the book (also available on Kindle)

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Here is a full list of all readers’ opinions I have received so far — with none left out! 🙂