Douglas Carswell

23 DEC 2015

To arm, or not to arm?

Yesterday the Evening Standard published a poll suggesting the majority of people in Britain believe the police should be routinely armed. I'm not so sure.

I can see arguments either way. Perhaps this is something best decided locally? What might be suitable for parts of London might be very out of place in rural Essex. Some parts of our country are at more serious risk of terror attacks than others. Some have more violent crime than others. What is right for police in one part of the country may not be right for police in another.

The good news is we now have a way to decide police priorities and tactics locally through elected Police and Crime Commissioners, plus in London, the Mayor.

Perhaps we ought to be asking candidates to be PCCs - and London mayoral candidates - whether or not they would arm the police? Then the voting public could have their say in a real ballot instead of an opinion poll.

I suspect most would say a firm "no" to routine arming where they live - but support more armed response police where needed.

Whether or not the police carry guns is an issue that needs to be seriously debated. The Paris attacks last month were a reminder that armed terrorists on our streets are a genuine threat. It is no surprise that public support for arming the police has since gone up. But after the Jean Charles de Menezes shooting ten years ago, many criticised the idea. If there is going to be a fundamental change in policing, it is important it has explicit, democratic backing from the people.

The next PCC elections take place in the coming year. So does the election for the Mayor of London.

Localising control over policing does not bring out the mob-mindset. It means a sensible debate about how best to deal with the policing challenges we all face.

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