Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Clegg and Orde reject calls to arm police after deaths of Nicola and Fiona in Manchester

Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes (right), 26 who were killed in the line of duty while attending a "routine incident" which led to the arrest of one of the country's most wanted men.

Former Northern Ireland Police Chief Hugh Orde and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have rejected calls to routinely arm police following the killing of two women officers.

Mr Clegg said the move would carry "considerable risks" and could damage relations between police and the communities they serve.

The president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Hugh Orde, also spoke out against any potential change, saying guns "don't necessarily solve the problem".

But the widower of murdered police constable Sharon Beshenivsky said officers should carry firearms so they were prepared for any situation they found themselves in.

Greater Manchester Police Pcs Nicola Hughes, 23, and Fiona Bone, 32, died in a gun and grenade attack after they were called to investigate what appeared to be a routine burglary report.

Mr Clegg said their deaths were a "heartbreaking reminder" of the "courage, the bravery and professionalism that police officers show up and down the country every day of every week of every month of every year".

But he told reporters in central London: "I don't think this is the time to rush to instant judgments, this really is a time for mourning and support, of course, for the family and friends of the two women who have been killed.

"We have a long tradition in this country, which is a great tradition, of policing in the community, of the police being part of the public and the public supporting and giving their consent to the police.

"I think if we were, in an instant, to, in a sense, arm our police to the teeth so they become separate from the public, that would be quite a big change which would have considerable risks attached to it.

"I think it is the kind of thing that you need to look at very carefully and certainly not, even though I know emotions are running high, in an instant way after this terrible, terrible tragedy."

Sir Hugh told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was the "clear view of the British police service from top to bottom" that officers prefer to be unarmed because the public dislike approaching constables bearing weapons.

He added: "Guns don't necessarily solve the problem. You only have to look at the American experience.

"Many colleagues in America are lost without even drawing their gun at close ranges."

But Paul Beshenivsky, whose wife was shot dead in Bradford during an armed robbery in 2005, told ITV News: "I think policing, as regarding going to scenes of crimes, should be monitored better, and I think police, in honesty, should be armed, walking into situations that they're not totally aware of.

"You can't have armed response at every situation, but I think, as an officer being armed, walk into a situation, feeling more comfortable, walking into that situation, thinking, 'I could respond to that situation'."

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