Armed police deployed more in Nottinghamshire last year than any other point in past decade

Armed police were deployed more often in Nottinghamshire last year than any other point in the past decade, despite the number of armed officers falling over the period.

Many police forces across England and Wales are deploying armed officers to more incidents because of rising violent crime and the continued threat of terrorism.

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The latest Home Office statistics show Nottinghamshire Police conducted 340 armed operations in 2018-19.

This was up 13 per cent from the previous year, when armed officers attended 302 operations, and eight per cent from 10 years ago.

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At the same time, however, the number of armed officers in the force fell from 133 in 2009 to 71 this year – down -62 officers overall.

The Home Office figures show two-fifths of police forces in England and Wales saw a reduction in the number of armed police officers in their ranks over the last year.

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This is despite a £143 million government grant to increase the numbers and capacity of firearms units.

In five forces, the figure reached a 10-year low.

Yet overall, the number of armed officers in the 12 months to March reached 6,653 – the highest number since 2012.

Even though call-outs have increased as well, the National Police Chiefs' Council said officers only fire weapons as a "last resort".

The organisation's spokesman for armed policing, Simon Chesterman, said there were only 13 occasions when officers pulled the trigger.

He added: "A mark of the quality of training that armed officers receive is how infrequently they have to use their weapons, and it is a testament to the professionalism of our armed officers that only 0.06% of armed deployments end with a firearm actually being discharged."

The union representing rank-and-file officers, the Police Federation of England and Wales, shared this view.

Steve Hartshorn, the federation's lead on firearms, said: "We need to remain vigilant and support these officers knowing their training is of the highest standard in times of rising violent crime."

He added: "There is still some way to go nationally in the firearms uplift as they can only recruit from an already diminished pool of officers and carrying a firearm isn't for everyone."

Gerard Milano, Nottinghamshire Police's Detective Chief Superintendent said: "Any recent increase in the number of incidents armed officers are sent to in Nottinghamshire is not directly linked to those involving firearms.

"Instead this increase is due to armed officers now being sent to deal with reports where there is a suggestion of weapons being present such as knives, or where there is extreme danger to officers and the public.

"Whilst each incident is assessed on its own merits, recent developments in the command of armed officers have seen us deploying firearms officers more often alongside their unarmed colleagues to these high risk incidents.

"This is often an operational contingency to ensure that we are keeping the public and our officers safe.