Why police officers without guns?

This thread got me thinking: Why don’t the police officers’ in some countries carry weapons?

What I’m interested in knowing is :

  1. Is the incidence of violence against police higher or lower in these countries than in the U.S.?

  2. What is the standard for training these officers, in terms of self-protection, subduing violent suspects, etc.

  3. What kind of general attititude do people give these police. In other words, do people respect/fear them less, give them more of a hassle?

  4. What is the philosophy behind unarmed law enforcement?

I’d also like to know why this philosophy wouldn’t/couldn’t work in the U.S. (not that I’d want it to necessarily), but I’ve a feeling that it would become a GD or IMHO pretty quickly, so please don’t offer an opinion on this without answering one of the more “factual” questions first.


We have unarmed law enforcement in the US. Its called private security :slight_smile:

Although many SO’s do carry firearms the majority do not.
I work security at a small amusement park. The reasons behind us not carrying guns run along these lines:

#1 If we need a gun to bring a situation under control, we have either failed miserably at our job, or the situation is too big for us to handle with our level of traininge.

#2 The presence of firearms on us escalates any situation to one where lethal force is available. Since we occasionally have to scuffle with an uncooperative and or intoxicated guest (in many cases we’re outnumbered too), we cant be killed with a firearm that was stripped away from us in the struggle. This allows us to focus on restraining without concern for weapon retention issues.

#3 The last thing we want is for another non-ivolved guest to be injured. Bullets flying around an amusement park is a BAD THING. Invariably any “excitement” will draw the attention of other guests, making a clear shot without potential accidental hits on non involved parties could become almost impossible.

Having worked armed security for a considerable amount of time, I have heard this reasoning before, and disagree with it.

If the other person has, say a knife, or a broken bottle, or pointed stick, often the situation can easily be brought under control by just drawing your weapon, or even just puting your hand on it.

Not the case, often the presence of firarms does just the oposite, it de-escalates the situation because the person causing the problem doesn’t want to get shot. Rarely do you even have to draw your weapon. Many times when I worked security a unarmed officer would be in a confrontation with some jerk, and an armed officer would walk up and the jerk would calm down considerably at the sight of the firearm on the armed officers belt. Weapons retention is an important issue, and anyone carrying a gun should have at least some training in this. It’s the same with cops, however, and not just security. The benifit of being armed outweighs the disadvanteges.


most shootouts would be at nearly point blank range, not like in the movies. Penetration is a concern. When working nightclubs, we carried Glasser safty ammo for this reason. However, I never once had to shoot or shoot at anyone, the firearm is almost always enough of a deterant to make that unneccesary. One of the people I worked with did shoot someone in an attempted bank robbery once. It was justified, and no inocent parties were injured.

With the vast number of people in the U.S carrying guns, no way would I work security in a public place without being armed. Far too dangerous.

Thanks so far, but I’m really more interested in the answers to to questions in the OP with regard to real law enforcement officers. That is, those on the public payroll to maintain peace. I’m not as interested in private or “for-hire” security guards.

Thank you, though- I appreciate the response. :smiley:


I submit that it is more a matter of the somewhat unmeasureable qualities of “public perception” and “tradition”. IMO, the average “beat cop” in the UK does not carry while on duty for those reasons, not because of any perception that it is not needed by them. While gun-related crime is far, far less common in the UK than in the US, there still is enough of it that it seems that their officers might be justified in carrying a firearm in many situations.

There are other countries with strict firearms laws where the majority of the police are armed - France and Portugal come to mind, but I am certain there are others. In fact, in downtown Lisbon I saw the police with submachine guns wandering through the main shopping district down by the bay - and they were police, not soldiers! :eek:

When I visited Great Britain in 1993, I talked to a number of police officers from various parts of the country about this issue.

The prevailing opinion was that they didn’t want to be armed, because they felt it would only make them a target. One policewoman explained to me that they carried handcuffs and a small baton. It fit in her pocket, and she pulled it out to show it to me. She said the police didn’t like to have even that weapon in sight, as it put people in the wrong mind about them.

I then asked what happens when a situation requiring weapons comes up. She said that they would then call out the weapons van to the scene, but that they needed a court order to unlock it. And that could take a couple of hours.

She saw my incredulous look and said, “No, you don’t understand. That hardly ever happens here. The criminals know that if they hold up a store or something that nobody is going to be waving a gun at them within ten seconds. So they’re more likely to rob a store with a hammer.”

Obviously we are beyond this point here in the U.S… If we tried to disarm the cops, we’d be in big trouble. Pity.

Note: My source information is eight years old here. Can any Brits tell us if things have changed since I was there?

Resident Brit here. The question of whether or not to arm our police does arise from time to time, but the vast majority of police officers and public feel the current situation is optimum: police do not carry firearms as a matter of routine, but the police force as a whole has access to all the weaponry it wants when appropriate high-level serious risk is present.

Q4 first. Let’s not get bogged down in a debate about guns per se. As any longstanding Doper is well aware, the pro- and anti-gun arguments go on forever, world without end. It is very hard to argue against the responsible use of guns, so folk who think guns=good emphasise the benefits of responsible use. Likewise, it is very hard to argue for the irresponsible use of guns, so people who think guns=bad emphasise the risks and problems of abuse. Yawn, seen all that before.

Here in the UK, the general view is that for the most part police and criminals enjoy a mutually beneficial absence of guns. The crooks don’t feel the need to be armed, because they know the cops and public aren’t. The cops and public don’t feel the need to be armed because the crooks aren’t. And round the circle goes.

This leads to the answer to Q1, yes, it’s much lower. Cops can reasonably expect to serve their entire time in the force without ever even seeing a gun, let alone being shot at by one.

There is some opinion that this cosy ‘no guns either side’ climate is changing, and that certain kinds of organised crooks - chiefly connected to the drugs trade - have been infiltrating the UK for years and bringing with them a much more violent and gun-toting kind of violence. Such themes are emphasised by the more right-wing press, bringing the let’s-arm-the-cops lobby to the fore, and played down by everyone else.

Q2. Our police receive only very basic training in methods of defusing situations, self-defence and subduing bad guys to apprehend them, but using nothing more than a baton-type of affair called a truncheon. There is ‘riot squad’ training for policing incidents of large-scale unrest, and weapons training for those who choose to specialise in this area.

Q3. Respect for the police? Hard to give a fair assessment. I think that in general public opinion is pretty LOW, but not because of anything to do with guns or lack of. The police suffer from very bad PR. The prevailing opinion is that the police are racist, unregulated and prone to falsifying evidence as and when it suits them. What annoys people most is the way the police SEEM to waste far too much time harassing basically law-abiding people for things like minor motoring offences instead of trying to catch serious crooks.

True and I have seen it done. I agree that generally firearms will discourage alot more problems than they will cause. The idea for us is not to get there, we work pretty hard to resolve things without going there.

I would be a little more concerned than you appear with the idea of firearms in crowded situations, no offense intended maybe you’re just that good.
I know its point blank. I have pretty solid basic handgun training from my IPSC competition days. I believe that historicly PD and SO shooting incidents often result in far more misses than hits especially if someone is shooting back at you.
We are hesitant to even go for pepper sprays just because of the quantity of small children around. I think if I was working a more “adult” environment I would be more concerned for my safety.

sorry for the hijack, thank you bdgr for the perspective from the armed camp :slight_smile:

Some police forces in the UK, the Met in London would be an example, now equip their officers with extendable metal batons and CS gas spray. Even the introduction of the latter caused some public consternation. Officers are also issued anti-stab vests though not, AFAIK, bullet proof vests except in circumstances where firearms are likely. Guns may be issued to officers for specific situations on the authority of a senior officer (Grok is mistaken, a court order in NOT required) and teams of highly trained marksmen are kept on standby, particularly in metropolitan areas.

And just the other day someone who was lighting his cigarett with a lighter shaped like a pistol was shot to death by a policeman.

Makes you wonder what yer average plod would get up to if given guns to play with on a regular basis. I hope we never get to the stage where an unarmed man gets killed in a hail of bullets just reaching for his wallet on his own doorstep, as happened in NY a few years ago.

Of course if it had been a genuine small pistol, the officers should not have opened fire. As we all know, small pistols can’t kill people :rolleyes:

I’ve not worked out if you’re being naive, obtuse or ridiculously idealistic…

And on what source do you base that statement? The reports I’ve seen describe it very differently:

“Witnesses claimed the man had threatened two others with what looked like a handgun but was actually a lighter. He was said to have been challenged by the police to put down his ‘weapon’ and was then shot.”

If these reports are accurate, the idiot has no-one to blame but himself, and the police behaved in a completely appropriate manner.

As it was reported in Swedish media he had walked around being a public nuicance, just as the witnesses have described it, but when he was shot, still according to Swedish media, he was apperntly going to light a cigarett. So much for jounalists.


Should bring some facts to the issue.

In addition http://www.met.police.uk/so19/index.htm shows that British police officers can use submachine guns(an MP5 here), too. Some infromation of Armed Response Vehicles found here too…

Three cases recently in the news-

Sussex- armed police operating on false and wilfully distorted evidence shot an unarmed man in bed. Result- officers who fired the shot and the superiors were considered for prosecution; the officers were tried and found not guilty, the superiors were not prosecuted; the local Chief Constable (Chief of Police) was forced to resign after two years.

Liverpool- man with schizophrenia shot whilst wielding a samurai sword- case under review.

Brixton- black man with dreads shot (six times- news reports suggest in the back!) whilst acting strangely with a cigarette lighter shaped like a gun.

It does seem that police are tending to use their weaponry more freely and this is causing some concern. The police only have common law rights to use offensive weapons, and this is due to be tested in the courts soon IMHO.

People with mental illness, black Britons and people assumed to be drug dealers seem to be particularly at risk. People with mental illness are more frequently downed with CS gas. IIRC when the new extendable truncheon (nightstick) was issued, fractures to people being brought into custody went up at a high rate.

The police may only use reasonable force in arresting someone. The police have in the past received automatic respect and few criminal cases were brought. The law is now sending more of these cases to trial. On the news the other day it was implied that some armed response units are refusing to use weapons because of the greater risk of being prosecuted.

Or an alternative interpretation with regards to the last two cases would be that people walking around with objects identified as weapons, who refuse police instructions to drop the weapon, are particularly at risk.

Sorry, I’m not sure I see how this is a bad thing.

With regards to the 1998 sussex case, that was severely screwed up, but whenever you have a situation where guns are involed there is the potential for that sort of mistake. All that can be done is to try to keep such mistakes to a minimum.

I’m just concerned that we’re quickly heading towards a gun/police violence debate here. Please stick to the OP.

Thanks, all. :slight_smile: